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Laddie, Lie Near Me (3/4)
abadplanwellex
Part 3!



Rose walked, the crunch-crunch-crunch of her footsteps on the gravel road surprisingly soothing.  As long as she could keep moving, she’d be ok.  As long as she had somewhere to go, she wasn’t running away. 

The wind whipped past her, and she leaned into it, wiping a hand over her stinging cheeks and smarting eyes.  A hundred different thoughts were tumbling through her mind, bouncing off the inside of her skull, making her head ache. 

Don’t think about it, don’t think about it.

But the mantra didn’t really help.  Thoughts kept creeping in through the cracks.  All the mornings, psyching herself up over a piece of toast.  Afternoons of pulling her team together, marshalling energies, quelling arguments.  Late evenings where she’d sat at her desk, poring over impossible piles of data.  And the nights where she and Jake and Mickey had stayed up, staring up at the stars.  So tiny, the three of them, standing as a shield against the impenetrable blackness.

What the hell was she supposed to do now?

She had lived, night and day, with the fear that the mission might fail, and the spreading darkness would finally reached Earth.  More than once, she had considered the possibility that she might end up stuck somewhere, trapped forever in some other dimension.  She’d certainly known there was a chance she would die. 

Very, very rarely, she’d even allowed herself to dream that she actually might make it back to him. 

But never ever had she thought she’d end up back here, brought back on purpose.  Dropped off on this wretched beach of all places.

Never say never ever, murmured a familiar echo in her mind.

Yeah, thanks, Doctor, she thought sarcastically.  Way to drive home the point.

The sarcasm was good, though, as both a sword and shield against the hurt.  For the past several years, she’d been struggling against the impossible, and she’d found that the only way to deal with it was with the blackest humor mixed with ridiculous optimism.  She wasn’t sure if that was a particularly human coping mechanism, or if she’d just learned it from him.  Her mum had certainly made the comparison more than once, usually as part of some unwelcome, cautionary lecture. 

Unbidden, the thought popped into her head that now her mum could see for herself whether Rose was really becoming like the Doctor, because she could actually compare them side by side.  Because even though he was gone, he was still here.  And that was really the crux of the problem. 

Congratulations! the Universe seemed to say.  Everything you ever wanted, and then some!  Awesome job, reunited family, great, heaping piles of money, and a made-to-order man, cut to your exact specifications. Enjoy!

It was all so simple, really.  No barriers to happiness here.  All she’d had to do was carve out his heart and chop off his hand. 

She shivered and pulled her coat tighter around her.

Bloody universe. 

+-+-+

The Doctor sprinted up a small hill, enjoying the rhythmic slap of his trainers on the rough road.  He had no idea what he was going to say to Rose when he found her, but it felt so good to be moving, doing something, that he couldn’t help but feel that Jackie might, just might be right—it probably was his turn.

He just hoped it wouldn’t go to her head.

At the top of the slope, he finally caught sight of Rose, making her way along the long, empty road.  She was hunched over, moving against the wind, and she looked miserable. 

Not really the most promising of signs.

He cocked an eye at the skies, hoping for an alien invasion—preferably a species with a penchant for swords.  Nothing like a good duel to convince Rose Tyler you’re the man you say you are, he thought.  Of course, aliens never invade when you want them too.  Oh no, they wait until you’re trying to impress a pretty girl with a nice Victorian Christmas or take her to a rock concert—Elvis or maybe Ian Dury.  Really, they aren’t too fussed. 

He raked a hand through his hair.

Bloody aliens.

The blustering wind was drowning out all sound, such that Rose didn’t hear him approach until he was quite close, and the Doctor was too caught up in planning what he was going to say to actually say anything.  So it was something of a shock to everyone involved when Rose suddenly whipped around, drawing a weapon from a side pocket with a smooth, practiced movement. 

“Hold it right there,” she said.

The Doctor’s hands went up automatically—he had a ridiculous amount of experience with this sort of thing, after all.  “Just me,” he said, eyebrows at maximum lift and his eyes wide.  He’d forgotten how she’d carried a gun.  “Don’t shoot.  I come in peace.”

Rose took a deep breath as she pulled her weapon back.  “Holy hell.  D’you have to go sneaking up on people?  Couldn’t give some warning?”

The Doctor lowered his hands slowly.  “I see that Torchwood hasn’t changed much,” he said, ignoring her question and eyeing the weapon in her hand.  “Nice gun.  Not as big as your other, but more portable, I suppose.”

Her lips pursed as she flipped the weapon over and slipped it back into her pocket.  “This one’s stun-only,” she informed him.  “Does that meet with your approval?  ‘Course, the other one wasn’t.”  She tossed her hair back.  “Y’know, the big one.  The one I used to shoot the Dalek that was aiming at Donna’s family.  That all right with you?”

The Doctor winced, not so much at the thought of the gun as of Rose and Wilf and Sylvia in a firefight with a Dalek.  And it had been a long time, but oh, how he remembered that feeling: the weight of a weapon, the searing heat of an explosion, and the acrid stink of burning abominable flesh.  But all he said was, “I’m sorry.”

“Oh, you always say that,” she groused.  She tucked her hands into her pockets.  “So what’d you want, anyway?”

“Er,” said the Doctor, fumbling.  Somehow, this didn’t seem like the moment to say ‘I thought we should have a talk about our relationship.’  He decided to go with the opening Jackie had suggested.  “Your mum said that you might need to check your clock.”  When this only resulted in a fierce glare, he raised his hands.  “Don’t kill the messenger:  I don’t even know what she meant.”

Rose kicked at the gravel moodily.  “Fine,” she snapped and tugged up the edge of her jacket. There was a small digital clock attached to her belt, although, the Doctor noticed, it seemed to be functioning as a stopwatch, counting up.  It had three tiny lights—green, yellow, and red—all lit up, and the red one was blinking.  Rose frowned down at it.  “Twenty-three and a half,” she grumbled.

The Doctor looked perplexed.  “Twenty-three and a half what?” he asked.

“Hours,” said Rose unhelpfully.  When it was clear from his expression that he wasn’t going to let it go, she huffed.  “Since I last slept.”   She tried to smother another bitchy comment, because his expression was everything she didn’t want; she’d had more than enough of people telling her what she shouldn’t do.  What she couldn’t do—including him. 

Not a one of them had been right.

“Don’t look like that,” she snapped, her temper getting the better of her.  “It’s been a busy day, remember?  And you’re the one always complaining that humans sleep too much.  ‘Sides, what would you recommend—I take a nap while the universe goes to hell?”  She tugged her jacket back down.  “Traveling through parallels does a number on your circadian rhythm cycles, even worse than regular time travel, because time moves at different speeds in different universes.  Sometimes, it makes it hard to get regular sleep, that’s all.  It’s not a big deal.”

The Doctor swallowed the lecture that had popped, unbidden, to the tip of his tongue, all about the effects of sleep deprivation on neurotransmitter levels in the human brain.  She clearly didn’t want to hear it, and anyway, he didn’t think she’d have any chance of understanding it, what with her neurotransmitter levels being so low. 

He cleared his throat.  “What do the lights mean?”

Judging from her expression, the question wasn’t any more welcome than the lecture would have been.  “They’re reminders,” she said bluntly.  “When the light’s green, everything’s fine.  When it’s yellow, I’m supposed to take into consideration that sleep deprivation is harmful to judgment and therefore not dismiss out of hand the concerns of others.”  This was said in a drone, as though it was something she’d memorized by rote.  “If it’s red, I’m supposed to sleep as soon as it is safe to do so, and if someone I trust tells me that I am acting irrationally, I have to stop, take a breath, and seriously consider the possibility that they are correct.” 

She glanced at him, somewhat abashed.  “Pete made me start using it after I threw a coffee pot out a window.”

The Doctor smothered a smile.  “Ah.  Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, really.  Not really a fan of coffee, myself.”

“I was in the Torchwood Tower at the time.  On the twenty-sixth floor.”

This time, the smile would not be denied.  “Right.  And knowing Torchwood, it was probably the very latest in misappropriated alien coffee pots.”

Rose shrugged.  “Might’ve been,” she allowed.  “R & D usually gets the good alien gear, though, and they’re total pigs for coffee.”  She twisted her toe in the gravel, looking down.  “So, am I acting irrationally?” she asked in a softer voice.

He didn’t answer her right away, waited until her eyes flickered up to meet his.  “Not really,” he said softly.  “Like you said, it’s been one hell of a day.”

She just snorted and turned her head away.

“Is this really such a bad outcome?” he asked quietly.  “You and me, here together?”

“No, I think this is a brilliant plan,” she bit.  “Trapping you here, on one planet for how long?  Years, at the very least?  What could possibly go wrong?  S’not like you’ll go mad with boredom or anything.”  She shook her head in disgust.  “I give it six months, on the outside, before you start toppling world governments.  Less than a year before you’re trying to take over the whole planet.  Well, at least I’ll have plenty to keep me busy, foilin’ your plans and all.”  She tossed her hair back over her shoulder, and it was almost a challenge.

“Do you really think you could?” he asked with one eyebrow raised, halfway between amusement and arrogance.  He really wasn’t planning on world domination in any form (honestly!), but something about her standing there in her leather jacket, one hand cocked on her hip almost made him want to try—if only so that he could watch her, in her all-grown-up magnificence, as she tried to stop him. 

Plus, he had a feeling that handcuffs might feature prominently in that scenario.

However, Time Lord Superiority probably wasn’t the best card to play at this juncture, at least judging by the outraged noise coming from Rose.  He held his hands up.

“Not planning on toppling any governments.  I promise,” he assured her.  “Er, shall we get on with the walk?”

Rose didn’t seem ready to move yet.  “What about my mum?”

“Oh, she’s all right,” the Doctor scoffed.  “There’s nobody out here, and even if there were, Jackie Tyler?  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and, you may remember, I am something of an expert on those.” 

He was rewarded with the faintest curve of her lips.  “S’pose so.”  She started walking, and he fell into step beside her.

They walked in silence for several minutes before he decided to press his case once more.

“Rose,” he started tentatively, “I know you said you understand, about me being the same man and all, same thoughts, same memories, same feelings, clearly the same gob, everything the same, well, except for the one heart and the one mystery thing that you won’t tell me—”

“Yes, Doctor, I understand.”

“Do you?” he demanded.  “Do you really?  Because you’re not…”

“Yes, I do,” she snapped, interrupting him before his rant could get started.  “I might even understand better than you, in fact.”  At his incredulous look, she huffed and crossed her arms.  “You can’t spend years jumping through parallel dimensions and not have at least a passing familiarity with the idea that multiple versions of a person can exist.  You’re like a parallel version of you, one with only a .01 Ty variance.” 

“But I’m not a parallel me at all,” he said, frustrated.  “I’m ME.  This hand,” he said, holding up his right and waving it in her face, “it’s the original one, Rose.  The same one you took when I said, ‘Run!’  Well, more or less, since the regeneration sort of changed everything.  It is the same one you took after I regenerated and had to remind you about how I took your hand and said ‘Run!’”  Then he frowned.  “What’s a…tie variance?”

Her face reddened a little as she brushed her hair out of her eyes.  “T-Y.  It’s a scale for measuring the disparity between parallel universes.  It’s based on measurements of the resonant frequency of matter at the quantum level.  It gives the operator a rough expectation of the delta from the OU—that’s the origin universe.”

“Clever,” he said, smiling.  “Though it’s been done before.  The Time Lords had something similar.  Perhaps I should compare notes with your mathematicians, eh?”

The look she gave him seemed a bit…inscrutable.  “I s’pose,” she said.

“Why ‘Ty’?” he asked, curious.

She looked a bit impatient.  “‘Cause it’s the Tyler Scale Equation,” she said.

“They named it after Pete?” he asked.

“No.”

“They named it after you?”  He grinned.  “Even better.”

She glared at him.  “I named it after me,” she snapped, and his grin faltered.

“Really?”

“No need to sound surprised, Doctor,” she muttered.  “Anyway, I didn’t do it all on my own.  I was just the one who postulated it.”  She deliberately over-pronounced the longer word.  “There’s still a team of mathematicians for you to talk to.  Actually, they’re the ones that insisted on the name—I was all for calling it Theoretical Actuality Relative Disparity Information System.  Or…well, something to that effect.”

The Doctor smiled a little at that.  She had grown, his Rose: expanded her clever mind and stretched all those latent abilities, the potential for which he’d seen so long ago.  He wanted badly to just sit and hear her stories, to see her at work, to get to know this new, fantastic version of her. 

He stretched out a hand to take one of hers.

Rose tucked her hands in her pockets.  

He stopped, the air knocked out of his chest like he’d hit a brick wall.  This wasn’t how this was supposed to work.  He was the Doctor, and she was Rose, and when he reached out a hand for hers, she took it.  It was practically a law of nature.  Except…

Except, he wasn’t the Doctor, at least not the original.  He was a copy, almost the same except for some pesky, extra humanity and that one mysterious detail that she wouldn’t share. 

A few steps later, and Rose stopped and turned to face him, eyebrows raised.  “Coming?”    

The Doctor tucked his own hands into his pockets, alongside his hurt.  “If you understand that we’re the same, what’s the problem?  What’s the one thing that’s different between me and him, Rose?  Because I honestly don’t know.”

She took her time looking at him.  Taking the measure of him.  “The difference,” she said quietly, “is that he had a choice, and you didn’t.  He chose to leave.  So you tell me, Doctor,” she asked with eyes so very cold, “since you’re the same man, when the time comes, when you have a choice—what will you decide?”




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