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the shore [parts one to four]

Title: The Shore
Series: Doctor Who
Characters/Pairing: Rose Tyler & the Doctor
Word Count: 8,000 (total length is 13,000)
Notes: Inspired by the Eleven/Rose fanmix We've Been Lost and Found



For mad_teagirl, In honor of her (very belated) birthday. Thank you for loving me, regardless of my affection for she~who~must~not~be~named. And let this be proof in the pudding that there will never be another companion that replaces beautiful, brave Rose Tyler in my heart (and never an honorary Brydum that I adore as much as you). Now, get to reading because this thing took me nearly half a year to finish. Geronimo!

And for suchaprince, who keeps showing me how fantastic the universe can be.


PART ONE

“The Doctor, in the TARDIS, with Rose Tyler. Just as it should be.”


Twenty-nine years have passed since Rose Tyler watched a bright blue police box from 1963 evaporate into nothingness at Bad Wolf Bay; twenty-nine years since the man she ached for – and he was a man to her, never alien – could not speak the words she needed to hear; twenty-nine years since she met the incredible creature beside her now, allowed him into her heart, and set off on an adventure with him, the first to ever breathe, “I love you,” into her ear.

The Doctor may have shattered her heart into a million shards when he left her. But every day, in the farthest reaches of her mind, she thanks him for the gifts he left behind to help her put the pieces back together: a divine chunk of coral from which to grow her very own shelter and ship, and this incredible creature – the Human Doctor – the hybrid result of a meta crisis the day she was permanently trapped in this parallel universe. Suddenly, her wandering thoughts are broken.

“Are you sleeping?” Part human, part Time Lord, her partner-in-star-chasing reaches out in the dark for her hand.

“No,” sighs Rose, “it’s Christmas, you know? Back home.” “Home,” she thinks. Such a strange word that she could tie to so many places. “Mum called. Tony spoke for the first time today…”

“Good ol’ Jackie. Let me guess,” the Human Doctor squeezes her hand gently, “Rose?”

“Rose,” she answers. “My name, and I’m not even there.”

“We can go right now. You know that, Rose. Let’s go…”

“No.” She turns to him, smiling. It isn’t a forced smile, but there is a sadness pulling her thoughts beyond her baby brother. “No, I can’t stand being still on Christmas. I’d rather be here, hovering in the Dark Matter Reefs with you.” She turns her face into his shoulder, buries herself in his scent. The thoughts that had been tensing every muscle in her body ease, and within moments, she is fast asleep.

***


She is the reason their infant TARDIS grew so quickly. It hadn’t been him. Talk about [T]ime [A]nd [R]elative [D]imension [I]n [S]pace. He may be the Doctor in human form, but it has always been her. He recalls it as if no time has passed, as if he was still that same self: the day beautiful, brave Rose Tyler took on the Daleks single-handedly and saved his life. And even now, she still has a bit of the heart of the TARDIS running through her veins.

“Running,” he thinks, “always running.” He remembers what it felt like, that uncontrollable urge to never, ever sit still. But with her, with Rose, he could sit for a thousand lifetimes and feel content. It’s been her – she is the one who needs to keep running. Sometimes he feels like she’s running away from her own reflection, a face that barely ages. She doesn’t like to talk about it.

Between the gifted coral from the man he was and her, he has two pieces of that place he called home from 700 years. “Home,” he thinks. Such a strange word that he could tie to so many places.

Even in the dark, he can see the soft outline of her face, pale yellow hair spread across her pillow. Rose Tyler. He isn’t sure if she knows it, and he never tells her. But sometimes, when she sleeps, he watches as stardust escapes her lips.

***


Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. A strange, familiar drumming passes through the thin veil of Rose’s restless dreams. Doubled heartbeats. She panics. It’s like the ground beneath her feet is melting. She calls for help, but she has no voice. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. She sees the Human Doctor in the distance, shrouded by mist. He falls. She tries to run to him, but her feet sink into the ground. Soon she’s stuck to her knees. It feels like she’s caught in liquid flames. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. His back is towards her and all she can make out is his tousled brown hair, the back of his pinstripe suit, and white Chuck Taylors. If he doesn’t turn his face towards her, she’s sure she’ll die. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. She’s sinking farther and farther down. The space between them seems to be growing larger and larger. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. And then, just as her head is pulled down below the molten surface, he turns towards her. He speaks: “I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart…” His face. His FACE!

She wakes in a cold sweat.

Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. The Human Doctor is already in action before she can even wipe the sleep from her eyes.

“I don’t know this alarm, Rose. I really don’t. It could be the extractor fans need new belts again, but honestly, who ever uses them?” His voice moves miles a minute. Yes, it’s a moment of high anxiety, but god, how she gets weak in the knees when his thoughts move this fast.

“Right.” She jumps out of bed, blessing this crisis for tearing her from that wicked dream. “The control room.”

They run down the corridors together, hand-in-hand. Within moments, they’re crawling through a small tunnel into the heart of their infant TARDIS. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Beep, beep. It’s louder than she’s ever heard it. Their TARDIS is calling for help. Rose dives towards a switchboard. Red light, orange light, purple light – pulsing in a rhythm she recognizes.

“Simple.” The Human Doctor stretches one arm from behind her towards the lights, his other arm wrapped tightly around her waist. “S.O.S.”

“I knew that, you old sod.” She grins, toothy and lovely.

“I’m younger than you; well, this body is anyway.” He winks.

Rose jabs an elbow into his ribs. “I ought to…”

“To what? Love me? I know you do, darling. No need to say it now. Problems to solve, worlds to save, I assume.”

“You think you’re so impressive!” But she’s just as in tune to their TARDIS’ call. Someone needs help. And they’re close.

***


The infant TARDIS materializes on a planet neither the Human Doctor nor Rose has ever laid eyes on. Together, they peer into the monitor that acts as a window to the outside world.

“Where are we?” Rose mutters. And it’s as if their TARDIS shrugs her shoulders and across the screen answers:

PLANET: UNKNOWN


“Unknown? Unknown. Bizarre. I can name a million, million planets from the top of my head; a million, million species. But an unknown planet and a cry for help… The name is on the tip of my tongue… The name, the name…” the Human Doctor is lost in thought.

Rose listens to his mind whir as she steps into a pair of jeans, throws a cropped leather jacket over her white night t-shirt, pulls her hair into a loose ponytail, and slips something quickly into her back pocket. He’s still thinking out loud as she laces her boots and asks him, eyes wide with the thrill of adventure, “Ready?”

It’s clear her excitement is contagious. He smiles. “Rose, you know better than anyone that I am ALWAYS ready, but if I could only remember why all of this feels so familiar. I mean, it’s not like I won’t follow you anywhere, though I really think I must be missing something…”

She cocks an eyebrow.

“Right.” He nearly laughs. “Allons-y!” He pulls her close, kisses her, turns on his heel, and bursts through the door that leads out into the unknown.

Rose moves to follow him. Then, almost like a knee-jerk reaction, she glances back over her shoulder at the monitor. As clear as day, the message changes right before her eyes. The screen is filled with lines of text. She takes a step towards it, squints, and quickly reads:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


With a knot in her stomach, she re-reads the last line, recalling the weight of the dream she woke from only minutes ago. “It can’t be…”

“Rose!” The Human Doctor calls to her from the unknown. “You need to come see this.”

***


“We’ve just landed in the middle of a terrible, terrible war. One that threatens the very structure of the universe.” The Human Doctor furiously rubs his forehead, desperate to make sense of why they were pulled here.

“The Time War?” Rose takes a step backward, visibly frightened, her brave exterior vanishing for a split second.

“No, no,” he can’t help but smile at her cleverness. “That’s a brilliant guess. But actually…” he spins around for effect, “…this is truly an unnamed planet. It’s home to the Hervokens, a fascinating, albeit rather callous, species I’ve met before. We’ve just passed from Christmas to Hallowe’en…”

“What was that?” Rose asks.

“Never mind. Not important. What is important is that they have clearly called for us to help. And what is of the utmost importance is that we stay entirely on alert for whom they are fighting.”

“Who are they fighting?”

“Let’s just say we’ll want to stay clear of literature while we’re here. Well, not just literature, but verse, really. Prose should be harmless enough, though if there is any sort of rhyme scheme…” He trails off, lost in thought again. He’s busy arranging and rearranging ideas in his hyperactive mind. His heart may be entirely human, but it’s this brilliant Time Lord brain that he’s forever grateful to for the ability to tap directly into the flux of all things. And speaking of, why does his companion look so terrified?

“Rose? Rose, I’m sorry. I know I’m doing it again. You alright? What’s happening in that sweet head of yours?”

***


“I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart…” Rose can’t fight her thoughts from running the words on a vicious feedback loop.

“Rose? Rose! Have you heard a thing I’ve said? Get DOWN!” And suddenly, the Human Doctor has her pinned to the ground behind their TARDIS, a perfect replica of the huge boulders covering the planet’s surface. Unlike the past she tries to forget, their ship’s exterior can adapt to any environment without fail.

She pushes all other distractions from her thoughts. Onto the task at hand. “Yes. I’m sorry. I… I…”

“No time to lose.” He’s grinning. “We’re in the middle of a war and it’s just as likely that either side will try to kill us. Exciting, isn’t it?”

“You would think so, wouldn’t you?” She laughs. “What did you see?” She’s back on alert now, crouching and wiping dirt from her jeans – but it’s really less like earth and more like… ash. “Strange,” she thinks.

“A Hervoken. Just on the other side of the TARDIS. Look.”

Cautiously, Rose leans just far enough to catch a glimpse of the creature: as if the legless, weightless form was not enough to give her the shivers, the fleshy, Jack o’ Lantern-like head and razor sharp teeth definitely did her in. “Is this a joke? THAT is what we’re here to help?”

“Well, it’s all relative isn’t it? Just because it’s hideous doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to live. And honestly, it’s fighting a losing battle against the Carrionites, and they give me the heebie jeebies. Wicked women who use patterns of words to reshape reality. Pure mathematics, really. And they eat their men!” He smiles again. But there’s something behind his eyes that she doesn’t quite understand. “Rose, I…”

And that’s when it happens. It’s so fast she doesn’t have time to react. One moment, he’s kneeling beside her, arm outstretched, lips spread, mid-thought; the next moment, he’s on the ground, clutching his chest, a gaping wound allowing his life to spill onto the planet’s surface. Right behind him, a thing has materialized. Hovering, like the Hervoken, but with massive, clawed hands – claws that have just reached through her love’s fragile, human chest – and gnashing, canine teeth chattering in her face. And laughing? Is it laughing?!

“The Doctor!” It is laughing. “I’ve killed the Doctor! Sisters, sisters! I’ve killed the Doctor!”

But Rose isn’t listening. Hot tears are streaming down her face. She’s thrown herself over his body, her hands pressed against the wound, trying in vain to stop the bleeding.

“No, no!” Rose sobs. “I don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do!”

The color is fading from his face. His eyes are open, but it’s as if he’s looking right through her. “Rose… I'm burning up a sun just to say goodbye.”

“What?!” The last time she heard those words, she lost her Doctor forever, only to be replaced by a new regeneration. But this man, the man lying before her now, covered in ash and blood, he can never regenerate. This is the only precious life he has. “You can’t leave me. You can’t…”

“…Just to say goodbye.” And he’s gone. Like a bright, burning candle extinguished with a single breath of air. She knows he’s gone.

“No. No, you can’t… I can’t do this without you,” the words are barely audible. She curls on the ground beside him, shaking. Her thoughts are swimming, far across seas of time, and she’s drowning in memories of what has been and the phantom of things that will never be. And in that moment, just as she feels she’s being pulled under by the weight of her sorrow, she sees his face. The face from her dream. Foreign, but somehow, she’s knows it’s him.

Rose Tyler will not lie down and give up so easily. There’s fight in her yet. Tears and ash streaking down her face, she stands and turns toward the wretched, beaked face that’s barely a few meters away. Every thing is coming back into focus and Rose can hear the sounds of shrill laughter again. Cackling, really. There’s chanting coming from behind her and somewhere to her left. She calculates each sound and the distance.

“He was unarmed, you bitch.” Rose reaches into the back pocket of her jeans, and in a flash, pulls out the concealed gun, fires at one, two, three Carrionites, and lowers the weapon. “But I’m not.”



PART TWO

“I can see everything. All that is. All that was. All that ever could be.”


For seventy-seven years, Rose Tyler runs. She’s hardly aged since the day she buried the Human Doctor. She figures her TARDIS keeps her in some sort of static state; maybe she’s trapped in a time vortex; she doesn’t really care. Often, it feels more like a curse than a blessing. She understands clearly now just how much the Doctor must have suffered, watching the people he cared for perish. But she learns how to use it to her advantage.

She begins to ration her time with her parents. She runs and runs and runs until she just can’t stand it any longer. Then she returns to their Earth, their time. And each time she materializes, Jackie and Pete Tyler beg for her to stay.

“Why can’t you just stay with us, Rose?” Jackie pleads. “This time, just stay. You don’t always need to be on your own…”

“I’m not always on my own, Mum.” She immediately regrets sounding cold and puts an arm around her mother’s shoulder. “Really, I’m not. I’ve got Torchwood, you know?”

And it’s true. In her universe, Torchwood is alive and kicking. Rose regularly swings by Cardiff, scooping up her old team: Jake, Ross, Gwen, Donna, and Geoff. It’s a full crew then – not one of them a Time Lord – but the TARDIS takes them were they need to go.

“Your mother is right, love.” Pete puts his hand softly on his daughter’s arm. “You can stay here, watch Tony grow up.” Rose can’t help but smile at the thought of her now-eight-year-old brother.

“Oh, he’s growing up alright!” Rose breaks the solemn mood with a belly laugh. Her parents are visibly bemused.

In reality, her Torchwood team members weren’t the only ones off adventuring at the drop of a hat when Rose Tyler showed up at their doorstep. Unbeknownst to Pete and Jackie, Rose was known to swoop in, pick up her little brother, and whisk him off on a trip or two before depositing him right back at school, merely moments after she had stolen him away.

“Oh, Rose! There’s so much inside of you I’ll just never understand.” Jackie throws her arms around her firstborn, her only daughter. “I love you so much, but I’ll just never understand what you’ve seen, where you go.”

“I’m always right here, Mum.” She places her hand on her mother’s heart. “And here.” She smiles and taps a finger on Jackie’s temple. A century ago, even Rose herself would have laughed at her own anecdote. She would’ve found it contrived and silly. But now, it’s the best comfort she can offer her mother – it’s pure, simple, and true. Rose knows a thing or two about memories; and she knows how to carry them like a constant companion.

“Mum… Dad… Come give your little girl a kiss, would you?” She embraces both of her parents and memorizes the moment, each line in their faces, every inhale her mother takes while they’re pressed together, and her father’s every exhale, his concern for her poorly hidden. And soon, she’s gone again.

***


“Baby brother, what is keeping you?” Rose pretends to impatiently tap her foot while Tony is deep in conversation with a girl his own age. He’s about twenty-four now, going to university, a brilliant mathematician. Rose could not be more proud.

“I’m coming!” He calls over his shoulder and returns to the girl. The student flips her long auburn hair behind one ear. She’s smiling at Tony and doesn’t take her eyes off of him.

Tony is blonde, with icy hazel eyes, just like their mother. The girl laughs and casually brushes her hand across his arm. Rose picks up on the signals immediately – this young thing is head-over-heels for the youngest Tyler. Rose would know love anywhere, and she knows this will be one of the last trips with her brother.

“He’s just about there,” she thinks to herself. “He’s going to settle. He’ll start a family. He has nothing to run away from. No demons. No ghosts.” And she’s happy for him.

Sure enough, when Rose brings him home after a jaunt to the water-world, Anura, Tony grabs his sister’s hand.

“Rose, I need to tell you something.”

“Yeah, yeah. I already know. Even liberating an amphibian race can’t keep my baby brother from wanting to get married.”

“How did you…” Tony stutters.

“How did I know? It’s written all over your face. And it was written all over hers.”

“Her name is Cassiopeia,” Tony laughs. “Isn’t that just like us? Falling for the stars.”

“It’s a beautiful name. And she’s a beautiful girl. She is so very lucky to have you.” Rose sniffs and blames it on the spring bloom.

“Rose, this doesn’t mean I’m leaving you…”

“No, no. Of course not. It just means you are doing exactly what you are meant to do, baby brother. Exactly. You deserve to be happy.” Rose grabs Tony’s hand and squeezes it tightly.

“So do you.” He plants a kiss on his sister’s forehead.

***


Rose spends nearly eighty years missing the sound of the Human Doctor’s laugh; and then one day, it becomes an echo.

She misses the smell of his hair, damp with rain, a mixture of wet grass, cardamom, and fresh laundry; and then one day, the scent begins to fade.

She misses the drum of his heartbeat beneath her cheek while drifting to sleep, solitary and strong; and then one day, that longing changes, and the single heartbeat is replaced by two.

“It’s strange,” she thinks. It wasn’t that she never missed the Doctor – the one who had deserted her in a universe broken apart from his own – the one who had left her in Bad Wolf Bay almost eight decades ago. “Practically an age,” she scoffs.

Her Human Doctor, he was never a replacement, not a substitute. She had loved him with every breath and in every moment of their shared journey. They simply fit together. But now that he was gone, and with the ever-stretching breadth of time and space separating them, she found herself more and more frequently thinking of the other. The one who was still out there. Somewhere. Saving worlds in a universe split apart from her own. The Time Lord.

***


Even when she’s caught up in heroics, Rose’s heart is heavy. She notices that she’s been spending an increasing amount of time speaking out loud to no one. Or maybe she’s talking to her TARDIS. Alone in the console room, hovering over her navigation panel, heat flushes her cheeks.

“You know what’s intolerable? YOU! Adapting so damn seamlessly to every place I land. Why do you have to be so perfect? No glitches, no mistakes! It’s just not right! None of this is right…” She yearns for her distant past – for a stupid, old, blue box.

Foolishly believing she can smack some sense into her flawless ship, Rose pulls back her right arm and jabs her fist into the control panel. She screams in pain.

“What am I doing here?!” She’s sobbing now, and she just lets it overtake her. “What’s the point of any of this?” Regardless of every thing she has been through, every thing she has survived, she has never felt more helpless. She buries her face in her hands and cries until it feels like there is no water left in her body.

When she finally manages to pull herself back together, a light is flashing on a switchboard just centimeters from her fingertips. She draws in a deep breath, hesitates, and presses the illuminated button. The words “MESSAGE RECEIVED” scroll across the monitor, and then:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart)…


She immediately clears the screen, turns away, and refuses to read the rest.

***


Rose Tyler has saved exactly one-thousand-and-fifty-four worlds. Rose Tyler is haunted by a poem. Rose Tyler can’t stop running. Rose Tyler misses the Doctor.



PART THREE

“There are fixed points throughout time where things must stay exactly the way they are. This is not one of them. This is an opportunity!”


The Doctor has been running in circles for one-hundred-and-six years. Oh, the Time Lord has had his fair share of the ebb and flow (he’s tasted glory and he’s been knocked flat on his tail). The years have sometimes been bitter, but sometimes bright and ablaze with the dearest of friends. When one lives as long as he has (“And I’m so very old,” he thinks to himself), then one learns not to chase regrets. “And I have none, not a single regret!” This time, he declares it loudly. But for whom to hear? He’s been talking to himself more and more these days (“I’ve been talking to the TARDIS, thank you very much!”) The Doctor is lonely.

***


Like a cosmic orchestra, the secrets of the universe call out to him in songs. A mad man in a blue box, he conducts a string section of stars: white dwarfs, like violins, collapsing on their own symphony; neutron stars exploding in double basses; and infant protostars, fresh with gravity, vibrate in his brain like melancholic cellos. But as much as he thrives spinning wildly through the music of the stars, bouncing from year to year and planet to planet like a metronome, it’s inevitable that a pair of dark brown eyes will always interrupt the arrangement.

***


He doesn’t waste much time looking at his own reflection. If he were asked, “Why not?” he’d make a crack about vanity, or about his prominent chin and well-defined brow. He’d turn the conversation right back around on the questioner (he’s not very big on being the questioned). But today is an odd day.

“Must be a Sunday,” he frowns into the mirror he’s summoned from his TARDIS’ console. “Nothing fun ever happens on Sundays.” He sweeps his much-too-long bangs aside. “If only I had a fez!” He blows air into his cheeks to mock a monkey’s face. “I’m just… so… BORED!” And exasperated, he pulls his sonic screwdriver from his jacket pocket, aims it at the mirror, and it slams back into its compartment.

But the real reason he rarely fixates on his own face is because he doesn’t want to let himself get attached. “You would, too, if you were me!” The one-sided argument echoes in the empty control room. Much quieter, he sighs, “you would, too, if you never knew when you might have to start all over again.” A Time Lord might be practically immortal, defeating death again and again by regenerating just in the knick of time. But the price is heavy. He wonders if what he gains can ever outweigh what is lost.

The Doctor doesn’t have any regrets (save for one). And that single, solitary regret is kept hidden deep within the rhythm of his two hearts: Rose Tyler.

***


It’s getting significantly more difficult for the Doctor to keep himself from traveling to Earth (specifically, London, England, 2005). “Oh, it wouldn’t hurt just to see her one more time…” he tosses the idea around in his mind, then answers himself aloud, “Ha! WHO wouldn’t it hurt? Not you? That’s a load of…”

But his self-chastising is cut short by a ringing phone. “Saved by the bell! Well, probably not Alexander Graham Bell. Not sure he’s got my number. Although I’ve definitely given it to him at least twice. Alex, you’re such a lousy drunk…” The phone rings again. “Right! Better be answering that.” His long legs carry him down the small flight of steps that lead below the main console to the heart of the TARDIS. The phone rings once more before he’s able to lunge for it and, out of breath, calls into the receiver, “Hello! Yes! This is the Doctor.”

***


“Okay!” The Doctor pivots around on his heels after hanging up the phone and bounds upstairs, two steps at a time. Delighted with the sudden turn of events (and if he were being honest with himself, the distraction), he practically dances over to the navigation panel, types frantically into the spatial location input, pulls the time-back lever, and beams as the atom accelerator begins to spin. “We’re off to New York City, 1924, old girl. It’s time to visit a dear friend I haven’t seen in, ohhhh, a couple of centuries, I suppose.” He’s feeling more like himself, and the TARDIS buzzes in appreciation. “Transcendental poet. A grand force in the modernist movement. Partied with Gertrude and Pablo – but then again, who didn’t?!”

***


The TARDIS shakes and shimmies as she’s catapulted through the fabric of time. Yes, yes, she’ll bring him to see the wordsmith. But not quite yet.

***


With a familiar groan and wheeze, the blue phone box materializes in London, England (not New York City). And as it turns out, it’s smack-dab in the midst of 2005 (certainly a bit off from 1924). Blissfully unaware, the Doctor emerges with a childlike grin and a flourish of his hand, only to be greeted by the disquieting sight of the London Eye.

He purses his lips and turns back towards the TARDIS’ open door. “Really, now? I’m clearly not the only one getting a bit old. You’ve…” and with that, the door slams shut. “Oh you’ve GOT to be kidding.” But it’s no use. The door is locked.

Rolling his eyes, the Doctor reaches his fingers into the air and is just about to snap them and force the door back open when he sees her. She’s just one in a crowd of many, but she stands out like she’s the only person on the entire planet. Her dress (“she’s wearing a dress?!”) is vividly patterned and reminds him a little of a Turkish bazaar. She’s speaking animatedly into her mobile. And that smile, that smile is gleaming just as brightly as it burns in his memory. Walking towards him down Westminster Bridge Road is unequivocally Rose Tyler.

For a split second, he longs to call out to her. But he doesn’t. He closes his eyes and turns back around to face the TARDIS. “Thank you.” He lays a hand on the door and it opens. Back inside the control room, he walks slowly towards the console. A little shaken, he refocuses on the task at hand.

He misses her (there, he’s admitted it), but at the very least, the thought of her makes him smile.

***


This time, the TARDIS materializes precisely where he’s requested. Not feeling entirely trusting, the Doctor peers through the eyepiece at the helm to ensure that this actually is 1920s New York. It is. He’s landed in Greenwich Village, right at the front doorstep of an old friend and poet, E.E. Cummings.

***


Inside the apartment, a hodge-podge of bohemian splendor, the Doctor beams. “Edward Estlin Cummings, how long has it been?”

The poet, nearly thirty, cringes at the sound of his given name. “Please, Doctor! Call me E.E.” He lights a cigarette and motions for the Doctor to follow him into the parlor.

The two are quite a pair: E.E. is small, but moves determinedly through the hall, a force to be reckoned with; the Doctor, all lanky-limbed and easily distracted, can’t help but buoy from wall to wall, absorbing each mismatched painting and tapestry like they were details in a complex problem to be solved. He pulls out his sonic screwdriver to scan a painting (“Picasso’s ‘Blue Nude’? Incredible!”). He’s been in this apartment before, maybe forty or so years later, right before his dear friend travels to his summer home in New Hampshire, suffers a brain hemorrhage, and is buried in Boston. The Time Lord whisks the thoughts away so he can enjoy the present with the poet.

E.E. sits on an oversized lounge chair, speaks with a dart of his eyes to ask the Doctor to sit across from him on the sofa, puts his cigarette out in a deco-style ashtray, and lights another.

“Those things will kill you.” The Doctor raises his eyebrows.

“Living will kill ya!” E.E. snorts, and the Doctor can help but laugh, too.

“You rang! You’ve never rang before. Or else, maybe you never will again… Never mind! To what do I owe this great privilege, dear friend?” The Doctor’s eyes bounce back and forth across the room and he spots a black and white photo of E.E., quite a bit younger, quite possibly in his teens. He’s wearing a bowtie. “You took my advice!” The Doctor points to the photo and then looks down appreciatively at his own.

“Ya told me to call, Doctor.”

“When?” The Doctor furrows his brow.

“Today. Now.”

“I told you now to call? Or I told you to call me now?”

“Ya wrote me. Sent yer number. Told me when to call. Said ya needed me to craft a poem. Ya don’t know any of this?”

“I don’t, no…”

“Well, I did what ya wanted. Ya’ve never asked me to write a thing. It was an absolute dream. My typewriter sang. Not even sure if the words were my own, to be honest.” He hands the Doctor a folded piece of paper from a side table. “No one will publish it, Doctor. They say it’s ‘too avant garde’. They’ve called me Dada!”

“Good ol’ Tristan Tzara.”

“Indeed.” E.E. takes another drag.

The Doctor begins to unfold the page, but E.E. jumps forward and forces his hands back down. “Not a chance! Yer not gonna read it in front of me for the first time! You can pop on by some other time, tell me what ya think.”

Smiling, the Doctor folds the page back up and slides it into his pocket, snug against his screwdriver. He pats it for effect. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

***


When the Doctor says goodbye to the young poet and hops down the apartment’s steps towards the TARDIS, something twists inside his stomach (“maybe it was the fish fingers and custard I had with tea…”), urging him to take a walk.

Lost in thought, contemplating the bizarre turns such a boring day suddenly took, he heads up 7th Avenue and breaks off onto Broadway. The city is bustling, feverish, and dirty. The people are downright gorgeous – men in sharp suits and hats (he’s briefly fixated with the idea of picking up a fedora) and women wrapped in knee-length dresses and furs. “I need to do this more often!” For the first time in awhile, he feels alive. Excited, even.

Soon, he’s headed east without making the conscious choice to do so. In every person he passes, he sees Rose Tyler’s smile, wide and welcoming. Normally, he pushes these kinds of thoughts from his mind – they tend to take up too much space, they cloud his judgment, and they bring with them an ache he just can’t tolerate.

But to hell with it, because he had just seen her, hadn’t he? There’s no point in ignoring that completely. And to top it all off, he hadn’t even meant to travel to London (come to think of it, he hadn’t really taken the proper time to think that through either). So hasn’t he really earned a proper walk and time to ruminate on Rose’s smile? And if that’s already the direction these thoughts are headed, couldn’t he think about the way her hand used to feel in his? Couldn’t he take the time to recall standing beside her, watching the Earth explode in the year five billion? Couldn’t he practically hear her voice cry, “I love you!” the last time he spoke with her beside Bad Wolf Bay... (“Okay, now that’s going a bit too far!”).

Reaching into his jacket, he wonders if his screwdriver has a setting for memory extraction. But instead, his fingers touch a piece of paper and he remembers E.E. Cummings’ poem. The Doctor tears it out of his pocket. “A-ha! I nearly forgot about you!”

His eyes scan the page, quickly at first, but he circles back to re-read it once, then twice, and once more. He feels the weight of a ghost sitting on his chest. He doesn’t know why, but the words steal his breath:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)


Aloud, he repeats the line, “and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” He finally breathes again. “Well, that’s just lovely, isn’t it?”

He’s still walking, though slower now, but stops abruptly when he realizes he’s made his way to Central Park. Giddy, he shouts, “I’m in the North Garden!” Which undoubtedly causes a few heads to turn, but the Doctor is too busy diving from flower to flower to notice. “Excellent! Just excellent! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to…” But he stops short. A massive hedge of yellow roses catches his eye.

Looking up at the sky, then back down at the roses, the Doctor laughs, almost maniacally. “Someone is playing a little joke on me today, I think.” He leans down to run his fingertips across the petals. He can’t help himself and he plucks one rose from the bush. Then, throwing his head back and his arms skyward, he screams, “THANKS!” before walking away.

The Doctor doesn’t notice that he has dropped the poem. It sits, forgotten, caught perfectly between the thorns of two yellow roses.



PART FOUR

“If I believe in one thing… just one thing… I believe in her.”


The Doctor’s TARDIS is deep in reverie. She knows her next move, and it’s so very easy, like playing a complex game of chess with a child. But really, if he wasn’t so daft, he could have sussed this all out ages ago. If she could sigh, she would. She reaches deep within her core, rears back, and casts out a line into the ocean of time. Simple. Rose Tyler has done most of the work for her already; it’s only the Doctor who proves to be so difficult. Like fisherman’s lures, the TARDIS hooks words to the strands of energy she is casting out into this universe and the next. She sends out one message to a poet on Earth in 1924, two messages to the Doctor, and three messages to the girl with all of time and space pumping through her blood. Rose will take care of the rest. The TARDIS remembers the day she had a voice, and if she had it now, she knows precisely what she would say: “It’s time to come home, Rose.”

***


Moments ago, the Doctor’s psychic paper – a handy, blank white card he habitually carries for this precise reason – relayed a distress call from Chelonia. It appears as though the normally war-hungry race of cybernetic tortoises have bred a pacifist faction (“fascinating!”). They want his help unionizing flower arranging (“really fascinating!”). And apparently, since they reached him via psychic paper, they can add sufficient telekinesis to their list of abilities, which already includes x-ray vision, super-sonic hearing, and hermaphroditic reproduction (“really, really fascinating!”).

Spatial location initialized. Time-lever forward. Atom accelerator spinning. “I really should be more excited about this,” the Doctor frowns.

Wilting on the fabrication panel, right next to the zigzag plotter, is a single, yellow rose.

“This is when you SNAP OUT OF IT!” the Doctor scolds himself. “Really, this is no time to brood. I’ll set aside a time for brooding. Let’s say, a month from now. A month from now, all the brooding you want. Today is not Brooding Day. Today is Liberating Cyber Tortoises Day. Why doesn’t that sound as fun as it should?!”

He’s making a valiant effort, but he can’t stop himself from conjuring the thought of Rose Tyler, as if she was actually in the control room beside him instead of the sad yellow flower.

He watches her face fill with excitement as she explores his revamped ship; there is so much to show her; there are so many places they’ve never been. She cocks an eyebrow when she discovers the microwave on his diagnostic panel, right next to the Bunsen burner. “A guy’s got to have tea, you know. And sometimes I’m in a hurry!” She laughs. Just the sound of it is enough to fill his hearts to near bursting. The sound of her voice and the way her eyes search him…

The Doctor pulls himself from the daydream. “This is getting to be ridiculous.”

***


She’s no stranger to restless nights. It feels like a lifetime since Rose has slept soundly. It doesn’t bother her terribly. Standing still is not her strongest suit. Drifting through the abyss of space – now that was something she could get behind. A billion suns and a trillion planets circling those suns are her companions. She has to believe that’s all she needs. But tonight, she’s tired of running. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of her thoughts, it’s almost as if she can hear someone calling her home.

Fixating for a moment on the glow of her time rotor column, Rose makes a decision. “Okay, take me home.” With a flash, her fingers plot the destination. Maybe she’ll stay with Tony tonight. “But then there’s Cassiopeia,” she reminds herself. “Mum and Dad’s, it is.”

Hurtling towards Earth, something goes wrong. With a loud crack, her TARDIS jolts and begins to spin out of control. Rose is thrown against a pillar and manages to grab hold before she’s tossed to another. “Just what I need!” She’s far from scared and damn well annoyed.

***


“Come home, Rose.” The Doctor’s TARDIS pulls her split-apart ever closer. “It’s time.”

***


Alarms sound, continuous and shrill. In vain, Rose attempts to cover her ears, hold on for dear life, and simultaneously locate the cause of the anomaly. Her sensors show nothing. The ship is spinning faster and faster; if she doesn’t fix this, and quick, she’s sure to crash.

***


“This is it. Brace yourself, my dear.” The Doctor’s TARDIS calls out to her soul, the part of it that crests like golden waves in every atom inside of Rose.

***


All is quiet. Each system within her TARDIS has returned to normal. She might have bumped an elbow on impact, but other than that, Rose didn’t suffer a scratch. “Well, wasn’t that a blast?”

She checks the diagnostics one more time and then steps outside. It’s Earth, that’s for certain. She’s even managed to land right outside of her parents’ flat. And according to her ship, it’s the correct year. But Rose senses a change. “This isn’t right!” Without hesitation, she sprints towards their front door.

***


How she knows is a mystery, but in the pit of her stomach, there’s no question. She didn’t need a dimension canon. The walls of reality were definitely not crumbling. There was no rift. But somehow, Rose has passed back into her home dimension. “Parallel, honest-to-goodness, original EARTH.” She crouches and lays her hands on the ground. She looks back at her TARDIS, the ship has taken the shape of a red, London payphone. The phone box irony is wasted on her sinking heart. She’s crushed.

The home she had run into didn’t belong to the Tylers because the Tylers don’t exist in this universe. If she went to Tony’s flat, she knows she wouldn’t find him either. She’s returned – but her family is lost.

***


The Doctor waves goodbye to the newly converted florists (cybernetic humanoid tortoise florists, if one wants to be specific). But something feels off. Like a reoccurring dream one has as a child – once so permanently etched in every waking moment, and now a distant fog – the past suddenly jerks itself awake and throws itself across his path.

The Doctor can’t shake the feeling that something is coming; something is waiting for him just around the corner. The TARDIS sits merely a meter ahead of him, unassuming. Either his eyes are playing tricks on him, or his ship looks almost timorous, just a bit too innocent. And then, as if he knows exactly what he’s supposed to do, he looks down and sees it: the words “Bad Wolf” scrawled frantically in the dirt beneath his feet.

***


Rose steps back into her ship, in a daze. She’s numb. And then she’s angry. “What now?” she asks her TARDIS. “What now?!” she screams, slamming her hands down on the console. In a fit of fury, she pounds buttons at random. She yanks levers, she spins dials, she crashes from one panel to the next. “What do you have planned for me next, huh? Give it to me, you sodding machine!”

***


The Doctor knows where he is going, but he doesn’t have the slightest clue as to when. He’s left that up to the TARDIS to decide (smart man). Tumbling through space and time, a bright, golden light fills him from the tip of his toes to the top of his head.

***


“Great. New York City. 1924. Middle of the night. I’m so impressed.” Rose is not impressed. “And Central Park, even? Never been here. How mysterious.” Her words are laced with acid. She slams the door and glares back at her TARDIS. “Ooooh, a tree! Aren’t you special?”

It’s cold. Rose wishes she had taken a long enough pause from her tirade to grab a coat. The blue jeans and blazer really aren’t cutting it. But the fresh air fills her lungs and calms her panicked thoughts. She’s glad to be out of that infernal control room.

Strangely enough, the smell of roses starts to make her feel more at ease. She walks down a garden path, collecting her thoughts and planning her next move. “I could go to Torchwood…” But as far as she knows, Torchwood in this reality has been destroyed.

The scent is overwhelming. She squints in the darkness and makes out a dim yellow rose hedge to her right. Wrapping her arms tightly around herself for warmth, Rose kneels down on the ground and takes in a long, deep breath. “For a crap night, you’re not so bad. Yup. Talking to flowers. I’m in quite a state.” She sighs. And then she sees it. Trapped amongst the thorns, a single sheet of paper.

***


In all the hundreds and hundreds of years that he’s lived, all of the moments that he’s left his survival to chance, all of the half-baked whims and whimsy that he’s let guide him to where he is now – never has the Doctor been pulled by the current like this. If he didn’t know better (and of course he knows better), he could swear he was swimming towards something miraculous, something spectacular and tangible that he’ll be able to hold in his arms. But that’s impossible (isn’t it?)

***


For the first time, Rose reads the poem that’s been haunting her for nearly eighty years and allows it to move her. It doesn’t pain her to see the words; in fact, they entrance her. “It’s beautiful.” She can’t take her eyes off of it, even as she’s walking back into her ship. Aloud, she recites: “And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.” It’s as if the words are speaking directly to her heart – like she’s always known the vibration she feels traveling from star to star has been, and will always be, love. She laughs at the simplicity, and at the same time, aches for that wonder, the magic that both pushes the universe in on itself and pulls it back apart.

In a stupor, she feeds the poem into her scanner. “This has to change every thing.” She’s certain. But nothing happens.

Every muscle in her body aches. Her brain feels close to breaking. With wandering thoughts so very faraway from these corridors, she lets her feet guide her to bed. Not even bothering to kick off her shoes, she crawls beneath the covers.

No sooner has she closed her eyes than the room begins to quiver and shake. Again, Rose Tyler is being tossed through the fabric of time and space without choosing to do so. “If I’m dreaming, this had better be a good one,” she grumbles. And then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, the shelf above her bed lands right on top of her head.


onwards to the next part

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
jesuslovesbono
Nov. 3rd, 2011 04:37 am (UTC)
this is really interesting...and i love e.e. cummings.
btw, did he really write that poem?
ladyapplesauce
Nov. 3rd, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I adore e.e. cummings. And yup, he really wrote that poem -- one of my favorites :)
amberfocus
Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
I am adoring this so far. You've made me cry for poor Rose and ache for Eleven (which takes some doing). Hopefully I'll have time to read the second part later (apparently Mom wanting to read fanfiction is not a good enough reason to be late picking up the kids from school).
ladyapplesauce
Nov. 4th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oh I am so glad you're adoring it! I, too, was crying for Rose and aching for Eleven whilst writing -- I am overjoyed that I was actually able to convey that <3

Snorted water up my nose while reading --->"(apparently Mom wanting to read fanfiction is not a good enough reason to be late picking up the kids from school)." So amazing!
fannishliss
Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC)
this is fantastic!
ladyapplesauce
Nov. 4th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you! <3
wander_realtai
Nov. 3rd, 2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
Here via a rec from who_in_whoville. I am absolutely loving this so far! Also, I think this is my new favorite poem.
ladyapplesauce
Nov. 4th, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yay! Isn't that poem simply magical?!
(Deleted comment)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )