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.
Excerpt: Groaning, she rubbed the top of her head and tried to collect her thoughts. Had she been dreaming? Most of her dreams these days featured the Doctor -- the Doctor without her, alone and lost without a TARDIS, or the Doctor finding her, or the Doctor giving up, ignoring her messages and writing her off as a lost cause.
Previously: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four
The Doctor sat in a hard, plastic chair with his elbows resting on his knees. He stared at the Sontaran teleport, which took up an entire corner of Torchwood’s main laboratory. He might have the teleport, but he still wasn’t sure what to do with it.
Karen peered over the Doctor’s shoulder, her fingers curling around the back of his chair. “What is it going to do?” she said in a hushed voice.
There was a hint of trepidation in her tone, but there was curiosity, too. The Doctor turned, taking in her perfectly polished pink fingernails before meeting her gaze. She managed a bright smile and swept dark hair off her shoulder with her other hand. Despite his reputation (or because of it?), Karen seemed genuinely fascinated by him—even as he worked at the Sontaran teleport, alone, in the back corners of Torchwood’s main laboratory.
Karen might have made a good companion, once.
She was also the sort of person that Rose once admitted she hated being around. “You can spot them a million miles away,” she said. “Rich, went to private schools, have got all their A-levels, and graduated from the best university in the country. And they always have perfect hair and nails.”
“You’re rich,” he’d point out.
“I grew up on an Estate!” Rose would reply, looking at him sadly like he hadn’t the faintest idea how classism in Britain worked.
He’d tried convincing her that after fighting aliens and travelling in time, a few rich people with fancy degrees should be no problem. But it wasn’t that, not really. Rose could wear the suits and fit in with the best of them. She could even tailor her accent to make it fit the corporate world. It was about belonging, she said. About who she felt most comfortable around.
“It’s a teleport,” he said gruffly, feeling like this was an important test of his loyalty to Rose. “And do you mind? I could use a bit of space.”
And, if he was honest, he was still furious at Pete and looking for a way to release some of his pent-up frustration.
Karen backed up immediately, sounding hurt. “I just wanted to help.”
He ignored her and returned to fiddling with the teleport. He managed to poke at it with the sonic screwdriver for exactly two seconds before feeling badly.
“Karen, wait—” she turned around, raising her eyebrows expectantly. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
She looked surprised at his apology and then she folded her arms over her chest, her curiosity evidently returning. “Bad conversation with the boss, I take it?”
Oh, yes, she definitely would have made an effective companion.
“Pete Tyler is not my boss,” said the Doctor, returning his attention to the teleport. “But essentially yes.”
She walked back over to him, her heels clicking over the floor. “What happened?”
He clenched his jaw as he worked on the teleport, feeling his anger and frustration rise again. It wasn’t the first time that someone used Rose against him, but rarely had anyone managed to be so effective. He remembered saying I believe in her with more conviction than he’d ever felt in anything, but this time he couldn’t just turn his back on her and wait for her to find her way home alone.
The worst of it was, Pete wasn’t some monster or alien menace. He was Jackie’s husband and Rose’s father. He was family—and there was nothing the Doctor could do except swallow his pride and do as Pete said.
Instead of answering, the Doctor said, “I could try and build the teleport on my own, of course, but I need Torchwood—it’s the only place in all of London that can even begin to support teleportation technology. Landing here is the only shot Rose has.” He paused, musing aloud, “The problem is, this is a Sontaran teleport designed for Sontaran technology. I can lock onto her position, but it won’t do me any good if she’s stranded on a moon in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well, she sent you a message, right?” said Karen. “That doesn’t exactly suggest a moon in the middle of nowhere.”
The Doctor scratched at his chin. “No,” he said. “It doesn’t.” He glanced at Karen. “You’re very good at this.”
“Thought I might be,” said Karen. “So, come on. Let’s think. You’ve got a teleport and a location. You just... you need to find some way to connect them...”
“Rose,” the Doctor whispered.
Karen blinked. “Sorry?”
“Rose,” the Doctor repeated, louder. “Rose will find a way.” He ran across the room, crouching over where the television from the flat was still plugged into three computers.
Karen followed him at a slower pace. “What will that do?”
“If she could send me a video, there must be someway to—AHA!” he cried as the screen began to sputter and cackle its way to life. He turned around and grinned at Karen. “I send Rose a message using our television and Rose finds a way to make her technology compatible with my technology.” He paused. “Well, the Sontaran technology.”
“And if she can’t?”
“She will,” said the Doctor confidently. “She’s very good.” He powered on the sonic screwdriver and used his free hand to type commands. “If I just jig this... YES, GOT IT!”
The static onscreen faded and was replaced with a clear image of the Torchwood laboratory. The Doctor shifted his position, lining himself up with the webcam in the middle computer. On the telly, his face filled the screen.
“Oh, well done,” said Karen. She leaned in next to him and waved. A Karen on the television screen waved back. “So what now?”
“Now,” said the Doctor. “I record a video and send Rose a message.”
Rose slept lightly.
She trusted the Trixans, who had done nothing but assist her since she'd burst onto their ship and done her best to hide herself, but the fact remained that she was any number of light-years away from home and somewhere out there were the people she'd escaped from. She fell asleep in the hopes she wouldn't wake up strapped to a machine like a lab rat again, and even the slightest sound had her jerking awake. It made sleeping in the bottom of a noisy ship rather challenging.
The noise that sent her jerking awake that night was the Doctor's voice.
She sat up abruptly, hitting her head on the metal underside of the bunk above her. Groaning, she rubbed the top of her head and tried to collect her thoughts. Had she been dreaming? Most of her dreams these days featured the Doctor -- the Doctor without her, alone and lost without a TARDIS, or the Doctor finding her, or the Doctor giving up, ignoring her messages and writing her off as a lost cause. On the rare nights she had simple, pleasant dreams, she woke with her arm stretched out across the empty space next to her on the bed.
But no, she thought, this was different. Her dreams had never woken her before, and she was certain she'd heard something. And that would be like him. It wouldn't be the first time the Doctor sent her a message while she slept.
She hoped he had better news for her this time.
"No," the voice carried on -- and it was definitely the Doctor's voice, it was on the PA system, and all at once Rose was completely awake, "not that button, the one beside -- there you go! That'll do it! Hello!"
Rose half-rolled, half-stumbled to her feet and raced down the corridor with a speed she usually reserved for when she was fleeing for her life.
"As I was saying," the Doctor's voice carried on, "if you're hearing this it's because you've got a Rose Tyler on board somewhere and I'd rather like to speak to her. Sorry about that, should only take a few minutes. Hopefully you weren't watching anything too exciting on any of your monitors."
Rose careened around a corner just in time to collide with Celly.
"Rose!" cried Celly, picking herself up off the floor. "I was just looking for--"
"Shh!" Rose shoved herself to her feet and pressed a finger urgently to her lips, desperate not to miss a word of the Doctor's message. He'd done it. He was contacting her. He was contacting her because he knew how to get her home, and she couldn't afford to miss a second of his instructions.
"'Course you might not speak English," the Doctor was saying. "Bit unfortunate if you don't, I suppose, this'll be a long, senseless message." There was a pause. "Nice and private, though."
"He's on the screens," Celly said, blatantly ignoring Rose's second shhh. She grabbed Rose by the hand and tugged her down the hallway. "Come look!"
"Doctor!" said a second voice over the speakers -- female, this time. "The teleport?"
Rose was in the process of identifying the voice -- was it familiar? was she Torchwood? -- when Celly tugged her into a room full of Trixan computers. There on the screen, on every screen, was the Doctor.
With an utterly undignified squeal of delight, Rose leapt towards the nearest monitor.
He looked tired, she thought, the sort of tired he got when he worked too hard on a task for far too long and let his own body's requirements fall to the wayside. She felt a twinge of guilt. How long had it been on Earth? How hard had he worked himself, trying to find her?
"Right," said the Doctor on the screen. "The teleport." In a split second the mirth was gone from his face and he looked utterly serious. "Rose, listen. We've got a Sontaran teleport here, fully functional. Well, I say fully functional. It works. Mostly. If you know what you're doing. And I do."
He grinned at her very briefly before adopting a serious expression again. "We can lock onto your location thanks to the message you sent me -- brilliant, by the way, I hope you don't mind me taking a page out of that book -- but the teleport's not that advanced. I can't fire a signal in your general direction and hope it sticks."
He leaned back from the camera and raked a hand back through his hair, distressed. "Sontarans are constantly at war, so they keep their technological secrets closely guarded and incompatible with the equipment of most other species. Amongst Sontaran technology, though, there’s a common thread – a frequency, to be specific – to ensure that Sontaran tech recognizes other Sontaran tech. Sort of like how Cybus had things set up on this Earth, with every bit of electronics compatible with everything else.”
He rocked on his heels. “For the teleport to work, we need Sontaran technology at the other end. Something, anything, just so it can recognize the frequency and we can pull you back."
As soon as he said “we”, a second head appeared on the screen, just beyond his shoulder. A woman with dark hair waved one manicured hand.
“Karen?” Rose spluttered before she could stop herself.
He smiled apologetically. "That's up to you, though, I'm afraid. The teleport will tell me when it's connected to something at your end, but you'll have to be the one to find it. I'm sorry." The Doctor grinned. "But I'm sure you can handle it. You, Rose Tyler, are incredible." He gave a nod of encouragement, his grin dimming to a sad smile. "I'll see you soon."
Quite abruptly, the screen went black, and then it switched back to scrolling text in the Trixan language. For a second or two Rose stood there, crouched by the screen, feeling bereft now that the Doctor's voice and image were gone. Then she stood, a slow smile creeping across her face.
The Doctor was okay. The Doctor had found her. She was going home. All she had to do was find some Sontaran technology.
"That was your Doctor, correct?" asked Celly.
Rose nodded, beaming now. "That's him."
Celly looked at the screen where the Doctor had been. “And is he considered attractive, for one of your species?”
Rose’s grin turned rather smug. “I’d say so, yeah.”
Celly tilted her head, seeming to consider this. “…Fascinating,” she said at last.
“Oi, that’s my husband!” Rose swatted her arm and glared, then pulled herself back to the task at hand. “Never mind that.” She took a deep breath and put her hands on her hips, readying herself for some hard work. “So. Sontaran equipment. You got any?”
Deep in the bowels of the Trixan ship, there was a storage room full of technological odds and ends.
“We collect them,” Celly explained. “We use the things we have down here help us to make our products compatible with our clients’ equipment.”
Trixan records suggested that they’d never done business with the Sontarans, but Celly had admitted the possibility that there might be some Sontaran material regardless, if Rose was very lucky. Not one to turn up her nose at luck when it had done so much for her before, Rose had insisted on having a look, and so they were rifling through the stockpiles.
They’d been at it for a long time, now, and Rose was rapidly becoming frustrated. It was hard for her to identify any of the machinery on her own when even the labels were in a language she couldn’t read. While her time with the Doctor and working for Torchwood gave her an edge over an average person off the streets of London, there were very few things she could identify on her own without Celly’s help. She recognized a hair dryer and something she thought might have use as a microwave. There was something that looked like a mobile phone and something that looked like a hand-held mirror, and none of it was the least bit Sontaran.
Rose bit back a sigh, shoving the mirror aside roughly and working her way to another shelf.
“We started with that shelf,” Celly said, standing awkwardly in the piles of discarded technology that Rose had scattered on the floor. “I think… I think we’ve looked through everything.”
Rose clenched her jaw and crouched down in the nearest pile, picking through things she knew she’d already looked at. “We might have missed something.”
There was a pause. In the periphery of her vision, she saw Celly shift awkwardly again, switching the mirror to her other hand. “We were… very thorough,” she pointed out.
Rose ignored her. She snatched up a device that was in essence a high-tech alien salad spinner, scowled at it, and set it down beside her. There had to be something. The Doctor had said it could be anything. Surely somewhere in this massive stockroom there was a Sontaran hair clip or something.
“It was a bit of a long shot,” Celly went on, “as we never have done business with the Sontarans, and most of what is in here we pick up from our clients—“
“There’s got to be something.” Rose picked up another gadget, inspecting it in the light.
“That’s Andofalian,” said Celly. “We looked at it earlier, remember? We looked at all of these things, there’s nothing Sontaran—”
“I’m not just giving up,” Rose snapped finally, turning to give Celly a withering stare. “You really don’t understand me at all if you expect me to just throw up my hands and give up. He said I needed Sontaran technology, I’ll find Sontaran technology.”
Celly fidgeted nervously under Rose’s intense gaze. “I’m not saying you should give up forever, but maybe there’s another way—“
“That could be months. It could be years!” Rose could hear her voice getting shriller and struggled to keep a handle on it. “I’m not just waiting around until one of us miraculously comes up with something else, I want to go home!”
An awkward silence settled between them, and Rose busied herself with rooting through more of the gadgets she knew she’d already inspected. Biting her lip and doing her best to hold back a scream of frustration, she ran her fingers along the cool metal object in her hand. It was one of the few items she hadn’t needed Celly’s assistance in identifying, because it looked remarkably like the gun Jack had always carried, unbeknownst to the Doctor. She remembered him showing her once, while the Doctor toiled away beneath the console.
"Small and compact," Jack had praised it, "easy to hide." When she'd asked where exactly he intended to hide it, he'd only given her that trademark Harkness grin that suggested she was better off not knowing. She’d been fascinated even as she knew she ought to disapprove, and she’d agreed to keep his secret so long as he agreed never to use it.
She missed Jack Harkness, she thought. It was weird, remembering the time when she’d been travelling with her first Doctor and Jack. It felt like lifetimes ago.
Rose sighed, checking that the safety was on before setting the gun to the side. There had to be something she could use, somewhere in this room. Though it had heartened her at first, now the memory of the Doctor’s image on the screen seemed to haunt her. He had so much faith in her. How long would he wait for her to find something? She could picture him at Torchwood, watching the monitors intently, refusing to eat or sleep until he heard from her. What if it took her days, weeks, months to work something out? What if she never did?
She swallowed thickly, setting the blaster aside and wiping her eyes. There had to be something. There had to be.
She cleared her throat, hoping she didn’t sound as choked up as she felt. “You can go,” she told Celly quietly, still staring at her hands. “I know you’ve got work to do, I can keep looking on my own.”
Celly opened her mouth, but something caught Rose’s eye. “Wait!” she said, making a beeline for the hand-held mirror again. She picked it up between both her hands and looked down at it. It was coated in dust and grime and its edges were rusted, but her pinched and worried face stared back at her. “What if,” she said slowly, raising her head to meet Celly’s gaze, “we bounce the signal back to him? Trick the teleport into thinking we’ve got Sontaran technology on our end?”"
Celly considered this. “That might work. We’ll have to reconfigure the matrix of our computers, but—”
Before Celly could finish, a loud booming noise from overhead cut her off. Rose had just enough time to marvel that it sounded like a firework going off before the entire ship pitched violently to the left, sending Celly stumbling into the wall and tossing Rose back against a pile of gadgets. A siren began to wail, and from far away, she could hear a raising chattering of Trixan voices.
Rose quickly found her feet as adrenaline hit her bloodstream. She hastily tucked the mirror into her side, feeling like she had to protect her one chance of getting home at all costs. She stepped gingerly over the rubbish and helped Celly to her feet. “What the hell was that?”
Celly shook her head. “I don’t know—”
Before she could answer, a second Trixan—yellow, this time—bounded into the room, looking panicked. “We’re under attack,” she said hurriedly. “Single passenger ship, looks like, but it’s well armed.” She hesitated, looking guiltily at Rose. “He’s a bounty hunter. He… he want us to hand you over or he’ll keep firing.”
Rose felt nauseous. “He’s bluffing,” she said, shaking her head. “They need me alive. If he keeps firing, he’ll kill me.” She swallowed, determined to ignore her growing sensation of panic. “Single passenger ship, though, can’t be that big. Can’t we take him down?”
The Trixans exchanged perplexed glances, and then Celly turned back to Rose. “This ship’s not armed. We don’t carry weapons,” Celly explained, shaking her head. “We don’t… fight.”
For a second Rose stared at them, wondering why on Earth they seemed to think now was a good time to experiment with sarcasm. “You’re serious,” she said slowly.
The Trixans nodded.
“You don’t have weapons,” Rose repeated, aware that she was starting to sound incredulous. “You don’t have weapons because you don’t fight.” She shook her head, letting out a laugh that was just a little panicky. “Well, the Doctor would love you.” She set her shoulders. “Right. Well. Better let him onboard, then.”
The Trixans exchanged worried glances.
“You… want us to surrender you?” Celly asked, sounding horrified.
Rose shook her head. She walked back to where she had been sitting and crouched down, fishing Jack’s blaster out of the heap. She clicked the safety off and then looked at them, steely determination in her voice. “I have no intention of surrendering.”
The man who had come for her looked almost human.
She wondered what strange evolutionary fluke made that basic structure so common across the universe. It reminded Rose distinctly of bad sci-fi films that played late at night on obscure television channels, ones with budgets so low they could only seem to afford face paint and perhaps some shiny spandex clothes. He was bigger than most humans she knew, probably close to seven feet, and after spending weeks in the company of Trixans he seemed enormous. His most differentiating feature, though, was his waxy white-gray skin and the fact that Rose could see nothing of his eyes but the pupils.
He looked creepy even to Rose and she'd seen her fair share of aliens.
It probably didn’t help that he was holding a gun that seemed to be roughly the size of Rose’s torso. She stepped towards him slowly with her palms raised, well-aware that the look of fear on her face was not entirely insincere.
“I’ll go with you if you promise not to hurt them,” she said earnestly, gesturing with her head towards the Trixans who had gathered round, standing fearfully at the edges of the room. “They’re harmless, their ship’s not even armed.”
He regarded her calmly and coldly, shaking his head. “Pacifists. I have no interest in them.” He tilted his head to look at her and grinned. “You, on the other hand, seem to be very valuable.”
Rose smirked. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
He ignored her and stepped forward, grabbing her upper arm roughly and twisting her around in front of him. His fingers were strong and his hands were nearly large enough to close all the way around her arm. She’d have a bruise there, she thought. The muzzle of his oversized gun dug into the small of her back.
She wondered what the Doctor would think, if he could see what she was about to do.
“Hands behind your head,” he hissed, and Rose complied.
She let him march her two steps towards the transmat before she spoke. “They killed my friends,” she said matter-of-factly, a calm tone that belied her rage – one she’d learned from the Doctor. “People I worked with, they killed them all, just to get to me. They took me from my family, dragged me halfway across the universe. And d’you know what I learned?”
“Shut up, will you?” He gripped her arm tighter and twisted the gun into her back. “Do you have any idea how hard it was to track you down? Weeks, it’s been. ‘Course, the barrage of incoming calls helped. Signals pouring into this place.” He shoved her forward another step. “You’ve made me rich, sweetheart, but you’re one hell of a pain in the ass.”
Rose swallowed, still taking the smallest steps she could. “I learned,” she went on, “that it’s a really bad idea to hold someone at gunpoint when they know you need them alive.” Before he could respond, she reached her free hand into her shirt and pulled out her own gun.
With the precision she’d learned at Torchwood, she landed a single shot between his eyes.
The body collapsed to the floor with a sickening thud, and most of the Trixans screamed. Rose lowered her gun and clicked on the safety, feeling light-headed. It was by no means the first time she’d killed in self-defense. Working for Torchwood, she’d come to accept that it was sometimes a necessity. That didn’t mean she liked it.
She’d argued the point with the Doctor before, worried that his own rigid moral code would get him killed, simply because he refused to arm himself. She’d admired that commitment and idealism as a teenager, but now it scared her. Sometimes she wondered if he truly understood that he was mortal now.
Still, the thought that he would disapprove upset her. She shivered, and after one last look at the body, she lifted her head to face the Trixans.
“Sorry,” she said, to nothing in particular. She took a deep breath and gave herself a shake, then forced a grim smile onto her face. “So I suppose we ought to get me off your ship before I cause even more trouble, then, yeah?”
Rose leaned over Celly’s shoulder, wishing for the thousandth time that she could read Trixan and actually do something useful.
“I think we may be able to reflect it like you said,” Celly had explained, hooking the mirror up to one of their computers, “You know, trick the teleport into thinking there’s Sontaran technology on the other end. That’s sort of how we sent your Doctor a message in the first place.” She’d shrugged. “It might not work, but it’s worth a shot.”
And so Celly had gone to work, fiddling with the Trixan computers in ways Rose could never possibly manage. As it was, she was stuck lurking in the background, able to do little more than follow Celly’s instructions. It reminded her uncomfortably of her early days in the TARDIS, fretting that she’d do or say the wrong thing and the mad man in leather would toss the back to the estate.
“Almost done,” Celly announced, leaning forward over her computer screen. “Just need to… there we go!” She grinned up at Rose. “Signal sent. It’ll take a moment to get back to your planet, but once it does this will notify me—“ she pointed at her screen “—and if you stand over there—” she pointed across the room “—the signal should be able to pick you up.”
Rose looked in the direction Celly was pointing, a giddy excitement bubbling in her stomach. Home. She was going home. “That’s… that’s brilliant,” she said, beaming. Without warning she turned and launched herself at Celly, crushing her in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”
Celly stayed frozen on her chair, evidently unsure of how to react to this bizarre human show of affection. “You’re very welcome. Perhaps we’ll pass by Earth some day. …If we can find it.”
Rose stopped grinning ear-to-ear long enough to pull back and look at Celly earnestly. "I mean it. Really." She swallowed, suddenly feeling terribly guilty for all she'd used the Trixans for. "I know I've been a burden, and there's damage to your ship, and there's not much I can do to repay you..." She shook her head and frowned. "You won't be in trouble because of me, will you? I mean, this won't happen again once I'm gone, will it?"
Celly shook her head. "Oh, I shouldn't think so." Her ears gave a mirthful twitch. "We'll be receiving considerably fewer intergalactic calls, for one."
Something on the computer next to them beeped, and Celly pulled away.
“That’s it,” she said. “Head over there and I’ll set it off.”
Rose pulled away and nodded, again smiling so wide her cheeks hurt. “Thanks again,” she said earnestly. She stepped to where Celly had instructed and gave her one last look, grinning. “And you know, if you’re ever interested in a free trade agreement…”
One second Rose was standing on a Trixan ship, bidding farewell to her friend, and the next second she was standing in a Sontaran teleport in the corner of Torchwood’s largest lab. The lab was filled with people, and for a moment all of them were silent as Rose stepped out of the teleport.
Then they burst into a round of applause.
Overwhelmed with relief and giddiness, Rose could think of nothing to do but smile and wave. Almost automatically she found herself scanning the room for the Doctor. He had to be here somewhere, hidden in the crowd of Torchwood employees, if she could just find him—
Her search was interrupted by a loud sob and a body colliding with hers.
“Rose!” Jackie Tyler nearly knocked her daughter off her feet with the sheer enthusiasm in her hug. With a kiss to Rose’s forehead, Jackie squeezed her daughter tighter and rocked side to side. “Oh, sweetheart, you’re alive! Are you all right? You’re—you’re—I thought—” She broke off, sobbing into Rose’s shoulder.
Rose swallowed around the brand-new lump in her throat and squeezed her mum in return, feeling undeniably guilty. How many times had she put her mum through this, now? “It’s okay, Mum,” she said, with a watery laugh and smile. “I’m okay. I’m sorry.”
Jackie pulled back, taking Rose’s face in both her hands. “You’re gonna kill me,” she said, shaking her head even as she smiled. “This job of yours, the trouble you get into, it’s gonna kill me.”
“I’m sorry,” Rose repeated earnestly. She blinked back the moisture in her eyes, smiling again. “Home now, though, yeah?”
Jackie smiled back, wiping her eyes with one hand. “Yeah.” She drew Rose in for another short but tight hug, then stepped back, sniffing. “Suppose I should let some other people say hello, too. Tony’s not here, it’s past his bedtime, but…”
Jackie trailed off, taking another step back, and Rose looked around the room again, searching for the Doctor.
Instead, she found Pete Tyler.
“Rose,” he said, giving her a nod and a fond smile. “Welcome back.”
“Yeah. S’good to be back.” For a moment Rose stood where she was, hesitating. As best she could tell, this Pete Tyler was not an overly affectionate man. Whether that was simply how he was or whether it had something to do with her being the daughter of another man, Rose had never quite figured out.
But Pete stepped forward and held out his arms, and with a delighted grin Rose closed the hug.
“Good to have you back,” Pete countered. He patted her twice on the back and then released her, still regarding her warmly. Rose nodded, a warm, comfortable feeling spreading through her chest. She took a step back, tucking her arms in front of her and looked around again.
Finally, she found the Doctor.
He was standing off to the side of the lab, next to a computer that was wired to a television. He looked exhausted, as he had in the video, but completely alert. He was watching her intently, and the second she caught his eye he gave her the slightest of smiles.
Rose bit her bottom lip, trying to blink away the sudden blurring in her vision. “Hi,” she said eventually.
The Doctor gave the smallest of nods. “Hello.”
For a second or two, they stayed where they were, and Rose held her breath.
And then suddenly they both moved at once, closing the space between them with a sprint. Rose launched herself at the Doctor, looping her legs around his waist; the Doctor spun her in a full circle, clutching her so tightly it was almost painful. She pulled her head back until it was at just the right angle and kissed him, urgent and frantic and eager, her hands latched on to his shoulders. He kissed her back desperately, like at any second she might disappear, hands fisted in her shirt.
God, she’d missed him.
Eventually becoming aware that she was snogging the Doctor in front of dozens of family and coworkers, Rose lowered her feet to the floor and pulled away, though she kept her arms around his shoulders. The Doctor opened his eyes, smiling deliriously, still holding her as tightly as he possibly could.
“Think we finally got that right,” said Rose. “No Daleks in the way this time.”
“No Daleks,” the Doctor agreed.
There was a quiet cough, and they both turned in time to see Karen ushering people out of the room. Most people were quick to comply, except for Jackie, who seemed reluctant to let Rose out of her sight and had to be steered from the room by Pete. Karen looked back over her shoulder and winked, and the Doctor laughed.
When the door to the lab was shut, Rose turned back to the Doctor, one eyebrow raised. “You made friends.”
“I made a friend,” the Doctor corrected. “Singular.” He sniffed and glanced towards the door. “Karen’s quite nice! Although her taste in men is a bit dubious.”
“Really? I always thought she fancied you,” Rose admitted, tracing her fingers along his collar. Then she wrapped her arms around his shoulders again, burying her face in the crook of his neck. “Missed you,” she mumbled.
“Yeah,” he said, his voice oddly quiet. She felt him swallow and press a kiss to her hair. “Missed you too.”
Rose bit her lip, settling against his chest and enjoying the comforting rhythm of his pulse. “Sontaran teleport! Easy. They’ll have to try harder than that to keep us apart.”
“Don’t.” The Doctor’s voice was sharp, and she looked up to see him shaking his head. “Don’t say that, just… don’t.”
Never say never ever, Rose thought. She frowned, taking in the frantic look on his face and wondering how long it had been since he’d slept. “I’d’ve got back on my own,” she said, resolved. “Next to a dimensional cannon, hitch-hiking a few billion light-years is nothing.” She bumped him with her shoulder. “Not that I don’t appreciate the help.”
The Doctor smiled weakly in return, not meeting her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, but the Doctor beat her to it. “What happened? Who took you? What did they want with you?”
Rose rolled her shoulders, none too eager to discuss the first few weeks she’d spent away from home. “They were… they were just looking for profit, I think.” She shrugged again, fiddling with the buttons of his suit jacket. “They killed my team. Woke up strapped to all sorts of machines. Turns out they wanted me for the Void stuff. They can use it as a power source and hey, free supply.” She quirked an eyebrow and pursed her lips. “Guess when I did all that traveling trying to find you I turned into a Void stuff buffet.”
She glanced up at the Doctor, not surprised to find his expression had turned hard and cold – and, if she was honest, a little bit frightening. “They were using you as a battery,” he bit out, staring furiously at the wall overtop of her head.
Rose nodded, reaching up to rest one hand at the back of his neck. “But not for long. I got away. They stopped at this sort of… docking bay, and I got away. Snuck onto another ship, made some friends.”
But the Doctor didn’t seem to hear that part. “They were using you as a battery,” he repeated, his voice wavering with barely-contained rage. “They killed your friends and they kidnapped you and they used you as a power source and then they stole your wedding ring and—” He cut himself off abruptly, releasing a long, shuddering breath. Rose was fairly certain the wall behind her was about to crumble under his stare.
“My ring.” She looked down at her empty left hand, running her thumb along the groove where her ring had been. “Why did they take my ring?”
The Doctor looked down at her, his fury softening to worry and concern. “They…” He trailed off, hesitating in that way he always did when he had to be the bearer of bad news to her.
So Rose widened her eyes in that way she always did when she wanted him to tell her something.
He sighed. “They used it to fake your death, Rose.”
Whatever Rose had been expecting, it wasn’t that. “What? Fake my death? D’you mean…?” She shrugged, unable to finish that sentence.
“There was a body,” he said quietly, avoiding her eyes again. “Wearing your ring. Looked like you. We thought… I thought…” He closed his eyes, giving his head a sharp shake. “I should’ve known better. I’m sorry.”
Rose was silent, reeling from the implications and a sudden surge of fury. They’d faked her death. As though her disappearance wouldn’t be hard enough on her family, they’d left behind a body? Had there been a funeral and everything? “How long?”
The Doctor kept his head turned from her, his eyes downcast. “Almost two months, now. I realized, of course, once I got your message, but I—I didn’t… I thought…” He swallowed hard and finally met her eyes again. “I love you,” he told her seriously.
With the hand at the back of his neck, Rose pulled him down for a lingering kiss. “Love you too,” she said afterwards. She pressed a second quick kiss to his lips and then hugged him properly again, one hand rubbing up and down his back and shoulders, a futile attempt at relieving the tension she felt there.
The Doctor kept his arms around her waist and bent down to hide his face in her hair.
For a long while they stood like that, neither saying a word; then, finally, the Doctor slackened his grip on Rose and she stepped back, taking his hand.
“Come on,” she said gently. She rubbed her thumb over his, grateful for the familiar contact. “I’d better spend a few hours with Mum before we leave here.” She paused, and then grinned wickedly. “Then we can head home and you can show me how much you really missed me.”
The Doctor stared at her, a slow smile spreading across his face. “Yes ma’am.”
Continue to part six