The Doctor was minding his own business when a blonde in a grey suit burst into the TARDIS and stared at him wild-eyed.
"Can I help you with something?" he asked. "D'you normally go barging into police phoneboxes that aren't yours?"
"It's you!" the blonde blurted. She gaped at him. "You're real!"
"'Course I'm real," the Doctor scoffed. "What do you think I am, Freudian imagery? Don't answer that." He stared at her from under frowning brows. "Have we met before?"
But her eyes were now riveted on his coat. Scarlet, with brass buttons, an old-fashioned British military coat.
"Since when have you worn that coat?" she demanded, a bit unsteadily.
"Since always," he replied, seriously puzzled now. "Do you want to tell me what's going on?"
The blonde's face made an attempt to crumple, but she valiantly held herself together.
"I was looking for the Doctor," she said sadly, "and you're one of 'em, yeah, the snarky Northern one, but you're not him."
And she burst into tears.
As he watched, she gave great gulping sobs, tears spilling over and tracking their way down her face in a mess of mascara.
The Doctor stared in concern and consternation.
"Hey now, that's enough of that," he said, striding forward and putting an arm around her. "Come on, I'm not sure quite what you're on about, but I'm sure we can sort it out."
She shook her head.
"I've met you before," she said, "this you," and she poked him in the chest, “but you always wore a leather jacket and you knew me."
She put a fist up to her face and stuck her knuckles in her mouth in an utterly distraught gesture.
"What you need is a cuppa tea," the Doctor decided, steering her to the hallway and mentally asking the TARDIS to bring the kitchen close, "an' then you can tell me all about it. That alright?"
She nodded silently, tears still pouring down her face. She wasn't making a sound any more, but the tears just kept rolling.
She wrapped trembling fingers around the mug he gave her and sipped at it, clearly trying to pull herself together.
"You must think I'm mad," she said finally, when she was a bit more composed.
"Nah, not really," he disagreed cheerfully, "I've met mad, me, and trust me, you're not it. I do find you intriguing, though. What's your name?"
"Rose," she said. "Rose Tyler."
"Good name, Rose. Now, d'you want to explain, maybe in a bit more detail this time?"
"I used to travel with you," Rose began, "this you, you see. All snarky and Northern and 'I-don't-do-domestic,' 'cept you wore a black leather jacket, yeah, and were kind of…" she trailed off, clearly trying to put her finger on how to describe it. "Sort of like, a wounded soldier, yeah, but you, you're more like a soldier on the march."
Her eyes suddenly widened.
"That's it," she said wonderingly. "Soldier. War. Doctor," she asked urgently, "you once told me Time Lords could only exist in one universe, yeah?"
"I told you that?" he repeated, mildly astonished.
"Yeah, you told me lots of things. Listen, whatever it was that did that, stopped the Time Lords having other selves in different universes, did it survive the Time War?"
The blue eyes turned so dark as to be almost black at her mention of the war, but as he realised what she'd said he paused, arrested.
"No," he said slowly. "Don't s'pose it did. You saying there's another version o' me wanderin' about in another universe?"
"The one I came from," she explained. "I was trapped here, when we were dealing with the Cybermen an' the Daleks –"
"Daleks?" he hissed. Instantly his mind was only on one thing –
Rose held up her hands in a 'stop' motion, eyes wide at the way his own burned with vengeance and murderous intent.
"Yeah, Daleks, but it's fine, we sent them into the Void," she said, slowly and clearly. "So you don't have to worry about them, alright? Or rush off an' kill 'em, or whatever it was that you were gonna do."
"Kill 'em slowly," the Doctor replied, eyes glinting. "Go on. So you used to travel with the other me from the parallel world, but got stuck here?"
"Exactly," she nodded. She drew in a long breath.
"Guess that explains why there's one o' you running around in this regeneration." Rose gave him a tremulous smile. "I'm really sorry to have bothered you."
She made for the door. The Doctor watched her go.
It was at this point that in a totally unprecedented and unexpected move the toaster flung itself across the room at the Doctor's head.
Rose stopped and turned at the yell of pain and flow of curses, to see him rubbing his head and staring at the toaster in bewildered indignation.
"You okay?" she asked curiously.
"Oh, I'm fine," the Doctor replied, still staring at the toaster where it lay innocently on the floor, "never been attacked by a toaster before, though."
What'd you do that for? he demanded of the TARDIS mentally.
Letting her walk off, she replied silently. I like this girl. And I can do more than toasters.
Rose bit her lip not to laugh.
The Doctor noticed.
"You can hear her?" he asked, incredulous.
"Have for years," Rose agreed. "The other TARDIS, anyway," she corrected herself. "But yeah, I heard." She caught her tongue between her teeth and gave him a cheeky grin.
The Doctor had to admit, the TARDIS wasn't the only one who was charmed.
"D'you want to stay then?" he asked her seriously. "You heard the TARDIS, she's happy."
"Are you, though?" Rose asked, just as seriously.
He grinned at her.
"Blonde in a suit walks into my TARDIS, knows who I am, solves a problem before I do and can hear my magnificent time ship in her heard? I think it's fantastic."
Rose beamed at him.
"Fantastic, then," she agreed. "I'm just gonna get some things from home, yeah? No vanishing on me while I'm gone," she warned.
"Tell you what, I'll give you a key," he offered. "Official TARDIS resident, with a key."
She smiled, eyes bright with sudden tears, and tugged on a chain around her neck. A small key was lifted out from underneath her shirt.
"Guess I'll wait here, then," he said.
While she was gone he crossed his arms across his chest and asked the TARDIS what was going on.
She's special, his ship said simply, and refused to say any more.
While the Doctor was mulling things over a youngish bloke in a smart suit and with a devilish smirk walked inside in a swaggering way that subtly announced taa-daa!
"Thought I left you in a 22nd century prison," the Doctor observed without much surprise, eyeing him with disfavour.
The other man just grinned.
"Did you think a bunch of humans was too much for my intelligence and brilliance? Face it, Doctor, without me, you'd be lonely. Why else do you leave things so easy for me to escape?"
At this moment the doors opened and Rose walked in, carrying a full backpack.
"You got everything you need in only half an hour?" the Doctor asked in surprise.
"It's like the scouts, 'be prepared' and all that." She frowned at the Master. "You a Time Lord?"
"Ooh, this one does tricks," he said appreciatively. "Where'd you pick her up?"
Rose's eyes narrowed.
"No insultin' my companions." The Doctor's tone was acerbic, but he said it like a well-rehearsed line.
"No?" The Master gave him an innocent, pleading face.
"Try it and I'll show you why even Time Lords learnt to watch it round me an' my Mum," Rose told the Master. "Only warning you're gonna get."
The Master looked at her with interest. A little smile played at the edges of his mouth as he looked deep into her eyes.
"I am the Master, and you will obey me."
"Not bloody likely," Rose said, glaring at him. "I'm gonna pick a room," she told the Doctor, hoisting her backpack onto her shoulder and leaving the console room.
"That'll teach you, the Doctor commented, to a still-startled Master.
"Doctor, her timelines are shrouded. I saw them for an instant, and they're like nothing I've ever seen."
The Doctor looked as startled as the Master expected. Then he grinned.
"The TARDIS said she was special. Guess I'll find out how, eventually."
He went to check that she was finding a bedroom without any trouble.
"You right in here?" the Doctor asked. Rose whirled; he'd crept up on her.
"Fine," she said. "Who's the bloke who thinks he's God's gift to humanity?"
"Calls himself the Master," the Doctor explained. "Kind of the Moriarty to my Holmes. Well he was at least, but we sort've lost the point o' fightin' all the time when we were the only ones left."
Rose looked thoughtful at that, as though it explained something.
"Nice to see he can't hypnotise you," the Doctor added, "it's a right pain in the neck having him hypnotise my companions all the time. They're always helping him build doomsday devices or drugging me or helping him conquer the Earth, it gets annoying after a while."
"Right," Rose said uncertainly.
"I'll let you get settled," the Doctor said and left her.
Happy now? he asked the TARDIS.
Very. If she were humanoid, she would have been smiling. You can expect great things from our Rose.
Our? he inquired.
But she just felt smug and went all silent on him.
The Doctor came out to breakfast to find the Master's face decorated by a handprint and a large scowl, and Rose cussing him out in Gallifreyan.
"He should do what with his uncle's spatula?" the Doctor asked, heading straight for the tea-kettle.
Rose repeated it.
The Doctor nodded in appreciation of her creativity.
"Other you used to swear a bit when he was tinkering with the console," Rose explained.
"A vocabulary like that, I'm doubtful you ever heard him say anything but curses," said the Master. Whatever he'd done, he had presumably been properly punished for it. Normally he was disgustingly chipper in the morning.
"Shut it, you," the Doctor advised him. "I'm sure you've pushed your luck enough this morning."
"He did, yeah," Rose agreed, but didn't say how.
He tried to pin her against a wall and grope her, the TARDIS explained, humoring his curiosity. She kneed him in the privates, ducked under his arm and hauled off and slapped him. She's been swearing at him all through breakfast.
"What are you grinning at?" the Master demanded.
"Nothing," the Doctor said.
The Master scowled and went back to his cornflakes. Rose finished her toast and dumped her plate and butter knife in the wall alcove for the TARDIS to take care of.
"So," she asked cheerfully, "where we off to today?"
The Doctor eyed her consideringly.
"Anywhere you want," he decided. It was a good test of a new companion, seeing where they'd choose to go, and what they did once they got there.
Myriad emotions flashed across Rose's face, but she settled on contemplative.
She was dressed quite differently today, in jeans and a t-shirt and an unzipped blue leather jacket, with her pale blonde hair loosely falling just below her shoulders. While she tried to decide where to go – and the fact that she actually thought about it was an interesting sign – the Doctor decided she looked much nicer this way than in the suit.
"How 'bout Barcelona, then," Rose announced. "The planet, not the city. I wanna see these dogs with no noses."
The Master snorted, but,
"Barcelona it is," the Doctor agreed, wondering about the odd look she'd given him as she announced her decision. At this rate, Rose was going to occupy his thoughts a lot. She was an enigmatic little ape, even if she didn't seem to realise it.
Mind you, he told himself fairly, usually it was the humans finding him enigmatic, so maybe it was just that this one seemed to know him pretty well when he didn't know her at all.
As it turned out, Barcelona proved to be an excellent idea.
Rose was clearly having a fantastic time, and thought the dogs with no noses were adorable, if kind of strange. The Doctor kept an eye out for trouble, and twice had to stop the Master from hypnotising the locals, but more or less had a great time as well.
"Can't take you anywhere," he told the Master the second time he had to haul him out of the local police station where he was convincing them all that they were his personal minions. The Master looked annoyed at the failure of his spur-of-the-moment plans, but smirked infuriatingly.
"Come on," the Doctor said, "let's get back to Rose."
"Wouldn't want your little pet human to stray too far," the Master said happily, seeing a chance to insult Rose without risking a slap.
"Gonna tell her you said that."
The Master glowered.
They found Rose in a pub, exchanging verses of an inappropriate drinking song with a group of giggling purple aliens.
"I was banned from Argos in seventy-three
When I stopped by a courthouse to take a pee
Unfortunately I couldn't find the loo
So I decided the courthouse doors would do...
I went back to Argos later that year
For a hyper-vodka and a case of beer
And I met this guy in my favorite bar
Who dared me to hotwire the Mayor's sky-car...
I got banned from Argos in seventy-four
For shagging up against someone's front door
They opened the door, we fell in...
And I was banned from Argos again.
I was banned again in seventy-nine
When I went in search of an old mate of mine
Who asked me for help in robbing some place
Which turned out to be a military base...
I was banned from Argos in eighty-one
When I went out to experience a new kind of fun
And I bought some spark from a dealer I saw
Who unbeknownst to me was one of the Law..."
Rose finished singing and turned away from the insectoid intently scribbling it all down in its notebook.
"He's trying to collect every known version of 'Banned From Argos' in the galaxy," she explained. "Say's he's got 1300 verses at the moment, and something like twenty different tunes, but time travellers keep coming through and introducing new versions. Time Agents, mostly. You mind if I get a drink?"
The Doctor eyed her warily, but she'd shown herself to have good sense so far. He patted his hidden pockets until he found the one he wanted, and handed her a small thing like a mechanical spider.
"Get me a hyper-vodka and an Arquillian brandy for the nuisance," he told her. Rose grinned at him and walked up to the bar.
"Nuisance?" the Master asked looking hurt, but his eyes were gleaming.
"Like none other," the Doctor confirmed.
Rose returned with two bottles and a glass of something bright green and sparkling.
"I have to drink out of a bottle?" the Master complained, disgusted.
"If you don't like it, get your own glass," Rose said reasonably. The Master frowned and pulled out a laser screwdriver, which he used to loosen the seal on his bottle.
"Show off," the Doctor muttered, opening his bottle the normal way. Rose's eyes sparkled with mirth.
While they'd been sitting there, a band had been setting up their instruments. Now, as they began to play, a pretty pink-haired girl moved forward and began to sing.
"Born of Time itself
All the chaos and ever-changing order
Holding all existence in her hands
Eternity burns in her gaze
The blood drained from Rose's face.
"You alright?" the Doctor asked in instant concern. She waved distractedly at him to be quiet, and listened to the rest of the song.
"She looks across creation
Golden eyes burning brighter than a sun
Reordering the timelines to her wish
Fear her ceaseless vengeance
There's a man who never dies
A lonely god protected by Time
While the monsters are destroyed to dust
Burnt in the Eternal flame
When it finished, the band went on to a new number, something about a girl who was more beautiful than the stars.
The two Time Lords stared at Rose, who was shaking uncontrollably.
"Didn't know I was famous," she managed, trying to sip at her drink and spilling a bit on the table.
The Doctor blinked and absorbed this immediately.
"That song's about you?" he asked.
"You, a human, a goddess?" the Master sneered.
Rose nodded jerkily.
"Looked into the heart of the TARDIS and into the Vortex –"
"You did what?" the Doctor exclaimed involuntarily.
"– and took it into me," she continued. "Saved my Doctor, brought Jack back to life, and turned the entire Dalek fleet to dust. I didn't even remember for the first couple o' decades."
The Doctor suddenly realised that she was going into a kind of shock. He moved around the tale and grabbing her by the shoulders looked into her eyes.
"Rose, you need to calm down," he ordered, further alarmed by the faint ring of gold around her irises. "Trust me, you need to take deep breaths and try to calm down."
Rose did as he said.
"That's better." He returned to his seat. "How old are you?"
She looked a little guilty.
"Fifty-eight," she replied, and made a face. "Wasn't gonna say anything."
"How much of the Vortex stayed with you?" the Master wanted to know, greatly interested. The Doctor made a mental note to watch him around Rose. No telling what that one'd get up to if he thought he'd gain power from it.
Rose gave him an odd look.
"Not much, far as I know," she replied. "Just enough to see a bit of the timelines, age slowly, that sort of thing."
"And you didn't think I might be interested?" the Doctor asked with deceptive mildness.
"Well, the TARDIS sorta knew."
"Fantastic," he muttered, darkly.
The Master gave him an over-the-top, needling grin.
"Stop rubbing it in," the Doctor told him.
"But I haven't even started yet," the Master said.
Rose sighed at the way her revelations had killed the pleasant mood and stood, holding out a hand to the Doctor.
"So, Doctor, tell me, you got the moves?" she asked suggestively.
The Doctor gave her a look as though she were the most alien of all the aliens he'd ever met.
"I mean," Rose said, managing to sound not quite patronising but perilously close, "d'you dance?"
"Just one dance?" Rose wheedled, her smile going tongue-in-teeth mischievous.
The Doctor was immovable as stone.
"I don't dance."
Rose stared at him for a moment, but seemed to decide she didn't know him well enough to press further because she gave up, looking at the Master speculatively.
He gave her a leering smirk in return.
"I dance," he purred lowly.
"Oh, for Rassilon's sake," the Doctor muttered.
"Alright then, out on the floor with you," Rose agreed, but with terms, "but your hands wander too far in the wrong direction an' you're getting it, we clear?"
Knowing the Master's love of risk, the Doctor was pretty sure Rose had just offered him an irresistible temptation.
"Oh, we're clear," the Master smirked, and went out to dance with her.
He wasn't a bad dancer, the Doctor noticed as he drank the hypervodka and watched the two, although he tended to stand very close to Rose and moved against her in ways that were perilously close to groping.
"Might I cut in?" he announced, looming close and looking at Rose.
"No. Sod off," said the Master, "go find your own alien to dance with. There's an alien like a pig over there who's been eyeing your regimentals all night."
Rose snorted with laughter and tried to cover it with a hand over her mouth.
"Don't fancy that, thanks," the Doctor responded, hoping that the Master was referring to his coat but aware he probably wasn't. "Rather dance with the pink and yellow human, if you don't mind."
Rose flushed, and looked at him starry-eyed. Then she looked at the Master, while the Doctor tried to work out what he'd said to make her look at him like that.
"Sorry," she said.
The Master snorted, but went off to steal the girlfriend of a tall bloke who'd gone off to get drinks.
The Doctor was surprised at the way Rose easily settled into a waltz with him.
"Alternative me dance with you much?"
She smiled at him.
"Sometimes. Mostly after he regenerated, and went all enthusiastic and hyperactive." She laughed a little at the memory. "Really different from you. Like a giant kid sometimes."
She looked over his shoulder and frowned.
"I think the Master's trying to use that drink to set the table on fire."
"What?" The Doctor turned away from her.
Sure enough, the Master was doing something with the laser screwdriver and a glass of alcohol while keeping an eye on the man who'd chased him away from his dance partner.
As they watched the alcohol burst into flames, and the Master casually walked over and set the other man's clothes alight.
In the chaos that followed, the Doctor thought that maybe he should intervene, but he wasn't the Master's babysitter, and why couldn't he have a day with the Master in it that didn't involve him wreaking havoc, just one?
Someone pointed in their direction, and several burly men started towards him and Rose.
"Time to run," the Doctor announced, and grabbing Rose's hand he ran, leaving the Master to sort out his own mess – although if the Doctor knew him at all, he'd probably scarpered in all the confusion and left the Doctor to be blamed for the lot.
Sure enough, when they got back to the TARDIS it was to find the Master already there, sitting with his feet up on the console.
"Like I said, can't take you anywhere," the Doctor said darkly. "I'm gonna lock you up in the TARDIS and only let you out to use the bathroom."
"You wouldn't," the Master said breezily.
This was true, the Doctor wouldn't; not for more than a few days, anyway.
"Leave him alone, he can't help it," Rose said. "He's like one of those five year olds who throw things an' have tantrums when no one's paying attention."
The Master sat up properly with a jerk, outraged.
"I am not!"
But Rose had left the room.
The Doctor knew that he needed to speak to Rose about her stint as a goddess – he was seriously alarmed about the possible side effects – but supposed it could wait until morning. Rose looked tired, and besides, he needed to have a little chat with the Master.
"You," the Doctor said forebodingly. The Master rolled his eyes at the lecture he knew was coming, and sat back with a look of fake attentiveness on his face.
The Doctor walked into the kitchen the next morning to the smell of cooking.
"Here, these are yours," Rose said, putting a plate of plancakes in front of him. "They're banana."
"You made me banana pancakes?" the Doctor asked, bemused.
"Yep. You do like bananas, yeah?" Rose asked in concern.
"I love bananas." The Doctor was still staring at his pancakes. "I don't think anyone's ever made banana pancakes for me before."
The Master breezed in at that moment, said "ooh, pancakes!" pulled on off the Doctor's plate and took a bite out of it.
"Ugh!" The Master grimaced. "They've got banana in them!" He glared at the pancake as though it had tried to poison him.
"That's coz those're my pancakes," the Doctor said, annoyed.
"Idid you plain ones," Rose told the Master. "Serves you right for stealing the Doctor's."
The Master just made a face and collected his own plate of pancakes.
They ate more or less in silence, the Doctor eating his pancakes as they were, the Master slathering syrup over his, and Rose eating hers with lemon juice and sugar.
"What's in yours?" the Doctor asked curiously.
"Apple," Rose replied.
The Master had paused with a forkful of syrupy pancake halfway to his mouth and was regarding the Doctor with a gleam in his eyes.
"Don't," the Doctor said simply.
The Master smirked and kept eating.
"Erm..." Rose mentioned, "I was wondering something."
"What?" the Doctor asked.
"How come you two call yourselves the Doctor and the Master?" Rose asked cautiously. "I mean, don't you have, I dunno, more normal names?"
"We made an unspoken pact when we were in school," the Master said casually, "never to reveal to the world that our true names are Cyril and Algernon."
Rose apparently wasn't sure whether to believe him or not.
"No." The Doctor sent him a look. "He's tryin' to be clever."
"I thought it was funny," the Master grinned. "So tell us, Miss Tyler," he leaned forward, "what's your Doctor like?"
Rose looked at the Doctor contemplatively. He felt suddenly uncomfortable for no reason he could name.
"Well, when I first knew him, he was a lot like this one," she tilted her head in the Doctor's direction, "that was for, maybe a year. Then he regenerated."
"Do tell." The Master was smiling in anticipation.
"Well, he was brown-eyed, skinny, ran around gabbling like a kid on a sugar high. Wore a brown pinstriped suit with a fantastic coat and a pair of high tops. Really great hair. Sort of... I dunno, pretty, I guess."
"Pretty?" the Doctor repeated incredulously, while the Master collapsed into laughter.
The Doctor was looking forbidding and disbelieving, so Rose smiled at him.
"Yeah, in a masculine kind of way. I always kinda liked the big ears myself, though. You know what they say about men with big ears." She gave the Doctor a very mischievous, naughty smile.
The Master gave another howl of laughter and went off again.
The Doctor folded his arms and looked darkly at them both.
"I'd stop laughing, if I was you," he advised the Master. "No, Rose, I don't know what they say, an' I'd prefer you kept it to yourself. Moving on. Tell me more about this Bad Wolf thing."
Rose made a pained face. The Doctor kicked the Master in the ankle, as he was still doubled over with laughter at his expense.
"Like I said, it hasn't left me with that much," Rose responded. "I can see the timelines a bit, sense time, how much passes an' everything, an' since it happened I've aged really slowly. Nothing else to tell, really."
"Right, still, do you mind if I do some tests?" the Doctor asked. "Just to check everything's normal for a human o' your era."
"I guess. S'long as you let me know if anything's, you know, weird."
The Doctor ran the tests, different blood readings, analyses of residual energy, DNA structure. Then he stared at them with great intensity as though he didn't think they could be quite right.
"What is it?" Rose could read his expression.
"Oh–" he pulled an inane grin onto his face, "Nothing really, it's just that, well..." he cleared his throat. "You're no longer human."
"According to this, your DNA, hormone levels, everything, all match the results I'd expect of a Time Lord who'd never gone through a regeneration. So..." he cleared his throat again. "Congratulations."
Rose seemed to have trouble processing what he was saying.
"I'm a Time Lord?"
"Yep. None o' the secondary characteristics that come with regeneration, two hearts and so on, but you're a Time Lord. Well, Time Lady."
The Master strode in, as though on cue.
"You finished these tests yet?" he demanded. The Doctor beckoned him over and showed him Rose's results.
"Well," said the Master. "That is unexpected."
He looked over at Rose where she was still sitting in shock, and he wore a very small smile, eyes glinting.
"Why, that makes you the last Time Lady in all creation," he half-cooed at Rose. "Isn't that something?"
"Notice anything else?" the Doctor asked him.
"Artron energy readings are spectacularly high, even for a Time Lord in a TARDIS. Point?"
"Not that," the Doctor said. "Take another look. At her."
The Master turned to look at Rose, staring hard, trying to make out her shrouded timelines as best he could. He blinked in surprise as he suddenly caught what the Doctor had already noticed.
"You're married?" he asked Rose, sounding astonished and rather disappointed, although the Doctor knew he'd deny the second one until the day he died.
"What? No!" Rose stared at him. "Why would I be married?"
"Because that's what your timeline says," the Doctor stated in explanation. "See that little twisty bit where it spirals afterwards? That's where your timeline was bonded to someone else's, and it's been connected ever since. Normally we'd be able to see it, but since we can't I'd say it belongs to someone from another universe. And since only Time Lords affect each others' time lines that way..."
Rose's eyes went huge, then luminous with tears. She blinked rapidly, an enormous smile blossoming.
"I'm married? To my Doctor?"
"Yep," the Doctor agreed. "Not sure whether he just didn't tell you or somehow didn't notice. But it means that we need to get you back to your universe as soon as possible, coz bad things can happen when people with bound timelines get separated."
Next thing the Doctor knew, he had an armful of attractive young woman. She had her arms around his neck and was hugging him enthusiastically.
Deeply uncomfortable, the Doctor instinctively glanced around for help. What he got was the Master conveying through gestures that he should take advantage of this opportunity to take things a step further.
'Fat lot of help you are,' he mouthed at the Master, and patted Rose on the back a bit awkwardly.
She let go of him and moved back.
"Sorry." She was still beaming and starry-eyed, and he felt a pang that she was married to his counterpart. He'd never seen a smile that joyous and lovely before. "Know you don't do domestic."
She added softly,
"What about me?" the Master huffed. "He's not going to do it on his own."
Rose rolled her eyes and pulled him into a hug as well. The Master closed his eyes and smirked, resting his chin on the top of her head.
"So how we gonna do this?" Rose asked, ending the hug and turning to face the Doctor.
"I'm not quite sure," he said, frowning.
"We need more than the TARDIS for this," the Master agreed idly.
Rose bit her lip.
"There might be something at Torchwood," she suggested.
"Torchwood?" the Doctor turned to stare at her. "What do you have to do with Torchwood?"
"I've been Director for the last thirty years," Rose said, and watched him a little anxiously for his reaction.
The Doctor just took a deep breath.
"Right. To Torchwood, then."
The two Time Lords decided to spend some time in the library first, to have a better idea of what was needed.
"This is going to be bloody impossible," the Master declared, frustrated. "Without the Eye of Harmony there's no stability."
"Mmm," the Doctor replied. "We'll have Pretty Boy on the other side to help us close the tear, though. We couldn't do it otherwise, but with Time Lords on both sides we should just about manage it."
"Oh? With what?" the Master asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. "While I love the idea of the chaos and destruction tearing a hole in the wall between universes would cause, it would also damage this universe and I'm rather fond of my own existence."
"We'll find a way." The Doctor nodded at Rose while the TARDIS hummed in agreement. "You can get us into Torchwood?"
"Then let's go."
"Planet Earth, 2008," the Doctor announced.
"The year aliens officially made contact and humans realised they weren't the centre of the universe," the Master announced in the same tone.
The Doctor thought about noting that this was an advancement the Master at least had yet to make, but decided against it. He had a point.
"We hadn't dismantled the stuff from the Void Room yet," Rose said briskly, "an' I was an agent by then, so there shouldn't be a problem getting in." She cut her hair a bit shorter, so that no one would notice it was longer than it should be for this time. "Meeting myself shouldn't be a problem, coz I felt a kind of – tingling, last time that happened, but I don't seem to be anywhere near."
"Jolly good," the Master said with excessive fake brightness, "Shall we get on with it?" Frustration leaked into his voice.
"Why not," the Doctor said. He gestured for Rose to go first, and with a deep breath she opened the TARDIS doors and stepped out.
The Doctor and the Master followed – there was a slight elbowing match as the Master tried to beat the Doctor out the door – and found themselves in a crowded storeroom, Rose at the door waiting for them. Together the three Time Lords slipped out into the hallway. The Doctor locked the door behind them using the sonic screwdriver, and slipped it back into his pocket.
He gave Rose a look that said clearly, 'your move.'
Rose led them down several different corridors. She was greeted by a couple of people as they went pat, casting odd looks at her casual clothing, and at the two men behind her. Rose returned their greetings briskly, all professional.
It was something of a shock, actually, to see her acting so professionally. The Doctor was reminded that the friendly young woman in front of him had in fact run all of Torchwood for three decades, and that required a cool head, nerves of steel and quick thinking. It was a side of Rose, he realised, that hadn't been displayed until now.
Rose glanced around.
"In here, she said, opening a door – and found herself standing face-to-face with a young black man.
He stared past her at the Doctor as though he'd seen a ghost.
Rose made a dismayed, impatient noise and pushed him back into the room.
"What's going on? What's he doing here?" the young man demanded, while Rose gestured the Doctor and the Master inside.
"Mickey, calm down," Rose ordered as she shut the door. She gave him a hard stare. "Notice anything different about me?"
Mickey was clearly about to say no and ask more demanding questions when suddenly his eyes widened.
He stared at her.
"Yeah. You look older. More… I dunno."
"That's coz I am older, Mickey. I'm from the future. This Doctor's not the one we knew, he belongs to this universe an' he's gonna get me home, but he needs to take a look at the stuff they used to open holes between universes. That's why we're here, in this time."
"But what about us?" Mickey demanded. "Me? Your mum? Pete? You gonna leave Tony too, then? Thought you were rapt in the little bloke."
"When I left Tony, Mickey, he was married, with a ten year old kid and one just starting high school. Mum was spending her time going on cruises with Pete an' meeting people and you'd just become a granddad. I don't age properly anymore, and I don't fit in, and I'm not even human. I don't want to stay here and watch everyone die and just become the woman who never gets old, Mickey. You gonna help me or not?"
Mickey gazed at her, hard.
"I'm in," he said finally. He gave the Doctor a mistrusting look. "Even if it means dealing with Ol' Big Ears here."
While the Doctor went "oi!" Mickey looked at the Master and asked,
"Who's this then?"
"This is the Master?" Rose muttered. "Whatever you do, don't trust him, coz there's nothing he likes better than a bit o' chaos."
The Master smirked with a vaguely superior air.
"Right," Mickey agreed. "So what we doing?"
"D'you remember the time you went round pretending to be all-powerful and setting things on fire, and I turned up and stopped you?" the Doctor asked. "They think we're gods now. They were calling you the god of chaos and lord of the flame. I've seen carvings; they always give me this great big beard."
"You had the healing patch over one eye because you'd had some accident the day before," the Master remembered, "and those ignorant idiots didn't realise it was a bandage and though you were missing an eye."
"They're like a pair of freaky twins," Mickey told Rose, glancing at the two Time Lords. "They always like this?"
"Pretty much," Rose agreed, eyes glinting in amusement.
"So… grandkids. I was married, then?"
"Yeah." Rose smiled reminiscently. "To a beautiful, wonderful woman. Really smart. You thought she was mental, marrying a bloke like you. But I never saw two people happier together than you two. You really had something special."
"What about you?" Mickey glanced sideways.
Rose avoided his eyes and gave a little, mischievous smile.
"Well, it turns out all this time, I've actuallly been married to my Doctor."
"You gotta be kidding." Mickey stared wide-eyed, and Rose shook her head, laughter bubbling up even though she tried to stop it.
"And, what, you just got married without noticing?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
Mickey shook his head in disbelief.
"Is there some kind of complicated Time Lord thing here that I'm missing?"
"That about covers it," Rose agreed.
There was a yelp of surprise and pain from the other side of the room. Mickey and Rose looked over to see the Master, grinning and backing away to put a table between he and the Doctor, who was advancing on him with grim purpose.
The device in the Master's hand was sending off sparks, so it wasn't hard to work out what had happened.
The Master grinned gleefully while the Doctor eyed him consideringly across the table. Rose held up a finger to Mickey, mouthed 'one moment,' and crept up behind the Master. She raised her eyebrows, and the Doctor gave an infinitisimal nod.
Rose hit the Master in the shoulder.
He winced and looked at her with glittering eyes.
"Electrocute him some other time," the Doctor sent Rose a faintly betrayed look, "I don't know how long we have here, alright?"
The glittering-eyed look had vanished at Rose's first statement, and the Master smirked.
"Later then," he announced flippantly, and rejoined the Doctor in gathering mechanical parts.
Rose shook her head and walked back to Mickey.
"They're both mental," he announced.
Rose couldn't really argue with that.
It was at this point that the door banged open. The three Time Lords and Mickey looked up to see a team of Torchwood agents standing in the doorway wielding handarms, all aimed directly on the four people in the room.One of the agents moved forward, smirking.
"And I thought you were in America for the conference, Miss Tyler," he announced. "Never mind. It's actually easier this way."
"What you going on about?" Mickey demanded.
"I'm taking over Torchwood, and there's nothing you can do to stop me."
" 'And there's nothing you can do to stop me?' " the Doctor repeated incredulously. "Can you hear yourself?" He turned to the Master. "Even you didn't come up with anything that bad, not after you lost the cape and the laugh."
The Master ignored him, watching the bumptious agent with a look of condescending amusement.
"Really?" His voice went low and seductive. "Nothing?"
"Duck," Rose told Mickey, and pulled him down with her as she hit the floor.
A moment later there was a tremendous BANG and a flash.
The agents caught in the arc of electricity collapsed where they stood. Their leader had reacted in time, ducking back through the doorway. While Rose looked up cautiously the Doctor moved to the door and peered down the corridor.
"He's gone. Come on."
The Master was frowning contemplatively at the scene before him.
"You know, I think that lacked finesse," he said thoughtfully. "I need to come up with something better next time."
"Never mind that!" Mickey was incensed. "Rose and Pete and Jake are all away at the moment. There's no one but me to stop him taking over the place!"
Rose put a hand on his arm.
"There's us." She looked at the Doctor and the Master. "You up to thwarting an attempted coup?"
"Do it all the time," the Doctor said.
The Master just gave a wicked smirk, eyes gleaming.
"Right," Rose looked back at Mickey, "let's grab everything we need and then we can stop this –"
"Moron," the Doctor supplied. He and the Master stuck everything in the quite large 'to take' pile in their pockets, getting a strange look from Mickey who hadn't realised that the inside of their pockets were much bigger than the outside.
"Come on, he's gonna be back with reinforcements," Mickey said.
"My office," Rose decided.
Rose's assistant looked up in mild surprise as the four burst into the outer office.
"Miss Tyler? I thought you were in Washington?"
"I am, Lucy," Rose said as she and the others locked and barricaded the door, "I've been time-travelling."
Lucy accepted this without a blink.
"Is there a problem?"
"Jones is taking over Torchwood," Mickey said succinctly.
"Yep, that Jones," Rose agreed.
"I never liked him," Lucy said tranquilly. "What are you planning?"
The Master looked at her in curiosity.
"Aren't you even concerned?"
"Well of course," Lucy said seriously. "But fussing doesn't help anyone. Better just to do something about it."
Most people thought that Lucy Cole was uncommmonly stupid. Underneath her insipid facade however was a very sharp mind. Rose had found her an invaluable operative. Now she looked on as Lucy and the Master watched each other with intense interest.
Rose had always wondered why Lucy had left so suddenly. It was nice to see things slot into place after all this time.
"We need to incapacitate the agents with him and arrest him without being too obvious," Rose told the others. "I mean, I had no idea any of this happened, except for Jones being arrested and a bunch of agents ret-conned, so we need to keep a low profile or cover it up somehow."
"Shouldn't be too hard," the Doctor announced. He looked at the Master. "You happy to handle it?"
The Master grinned devilishly.
"Leave it to me."
As they watched, the Master began puttign bits and pieces together. Halfway through a banging started up on the other side of the door, and the sound of agitated voices, but the Master continued calmly and methodically.
After a few more minute he finished puttign together his makesift weapon, and nodded to the Doctor.
The Doctor pulled out the sonic screwdriver and unlocked the door as everyone but the Master moved back.
It took a few seconds for the agents to break the door down because of the furniture barricaded in front of it, and when they did it was to see the Master standing looking positively fiendish, eyes glowing with malevolence.
They moved to shoot him, but the Master had already acted.
Mid-movement they collapsed, screaming and clutching their heads. Jones, face contorted in agony, managed to aim nonetheless.
There was the loud report of a gunshot.
Everyone turned to stare at Lucy in surprise as Jones slumped lifelessly.
"I never liked him," Lucy reiterated. "He used to make vulgar remarks about me."
"I like you," the Master gave her a rakish grin. "How you you feel about taking over the world?"
"You can plot diabolically later," the Doctor ordered.
Rose looked at Mickey.
"Can you handle it from here?"
"I reckon I'll be alright." He and Rose stared at each other. Then they both stepped forward into a hug.
"You take care of yourself," Mickey told her.
Rose gave a little laugh.
"You too." She held him tightly. "I do love you, Mickey. I'm gonna miss you."
"I know." He broke the hug and stepped back. "You better get going before someone else comes up here."
"Yeah." Rose blinked back tears and looked at the two Time Lords. "You know, Lucy would make a great companion. Cool in the face of danger, smart..."
"Fine," the Doctor wasn't in the mood to argue and both Rose and the Master were looking at him expectantly.
"Do you want to come with us?" Rose asked Lucy. "This is the Master, and the Doctor, and they're time travellers. They're going to send me home, but after that..."
"I'd be delighted," Lucy met the Master's eyes. She gave a little smirk.
He returned it.
The four of them made their way back to the TARDIS as quietly and briskly as possible.
"You travel in a police phone box?" Lucy was delighted by the notion.
"Wait til you see inside," the Doctor told her, and unlocked the doors.
Lucy gave a gasp of astonishment.
"It's bigger on the inside!"
While the Master gave an enthralled Lucy some overblown spiel about the lords of time and space, the Dctor nodded to Rose.
"While Casanova over there's showing his new ladyfriend around, d'you fancy a cuppa tea?"
"Love one," Rose said fervently.
While Rose was getting a couple of hours sleep and the Master was busy playing computer games, the Doctor sat down to have a good talk with the TARDIS.
Are you right with this? he questioned. It's about as safe as me and the Master can manage, but there's still a risk. You willing to take it?
Of course I am, the TARDIS replied with a little bit of disdain. I've seen your calculations, they're sound enough.
You're going to be handling the brunt of it, though.
The TARDIS' tone turned supercilious.
I assure you, I can manage it. I've been juggling the more volatile aspects of time and space since long before you existed, Doctor. I am not concerned.
The Doctor frowned.
I could have taken a later model, you know. Something a bit more put-together. Less cheeky.
It was a game the two of them had played before.
More stupid, the TARDIS added cynically. Far too incompetent to have brought you through the end of the Time War in one piece. Not to mention you'd never have managed to steal one in the first place.
I might've, the Doctor argued.
Oh yes, and the moment you got the doors open they would have sent out an alarm that someone was trying to steal them. Then where would you have been?
The Doctor frowned.
All right, you win.
The TARDIS sent him the equivalent of a smirk.
Is the gloating really necessary?
There was a sudden burst of glee and exultation from the Master, which subsided a bit after a couple of minutes.
The Doctor sent the TARDIS a mute question.
He just bombed America to bits on World Conquest 3, she explained.
He playing Russia again?
The Soviets, she confirmed.
Those games were a good idea, the Doctor said. Keep him from getting up to real trouble.
There was a mental tugging at him coming from the Master, so the Doctor stood.
Better go see what he wants.
The Doctor walked into the games room to see the Master connected to the simulation headset. He put one on himself and closed his eyes, and let the machine connect him to the current game as well.
The Doctor found himself standing in a plush office in front of Joseph Stalin.
A Stalin who was dressed in black velvet, and a matching cape.
The Doctor shook his head.
"Hopeless, you are."
"I think it suits him," the Master said, looking down at himself with a grin. "I think it's the moustache."
"Why on earth did you choose Stalin?"
The Master shrugged. His grin looked rather disturbing on Stalin's face.
The Doctor had appeared in the game as himself, but now flickered through a range of forms in quick succession, settling on a tall man in Time Lord regalia.
"What do you think?"
The Master howled with laughter, his mirth increasing as the Doctor exchanged the Time Lord robes for a sober tweed suit.
"Borusa as Lord Conqueror!" the Master snorted, and went off into further gales of laughter.
The Doctor changed forms again, this time to a mild young man in a cricket outfit. His fifth incarnation.
"You know, it's a pity Gallifrey isn't in the world options," the Master said thoughtfully, still grinning mirthfully from the sight of the Doctor as Borusa. "It'd be rather nice to conquer and subjugate it."
He eyed the Doctor with mocking eyes.
The Doctor frowned at him.
"I'm not going to go into it." In his current form his tone came out chiding rather than intimidating. He frowned slightly, and saw the Master grin. "Shut it."
"What're you two up to?"
They turned to see that Rose had entered the game and was staring in surprise to find herself with a young blonde man and Joseph Stalin.
"How d'you change appearances like that?" she asked curiously, still eyeing them oddly.
"Just think of how you want to look, and will it," the Master instructed.
Rose blinked at the strangeness of taking advice from Stalin in a cape, but closed her eyes in concentration for a moment.
The next she was clad in Celtic garb and daubed with blue, holding a short sword in one hand.
An appreciative smirk spread over the Master's face even as the Doctor felt his jaw drop at the sight of Rose dressed as Boudicca.
From the colourful tunic to the dishevelled hair, she was every inch the warrior queen.
"Very impressive," the Doctor told her.
Rose grinned, cheeky and amused.
"Yeah, well, so was she. Tried to run the Doctor through, an' taught me how to use a sword. I had to practice, yeah, but she showed me the basics."
In demonstration she slashed in his direction.
The Doctor stood still without a change in expression, but inwardly had to dampen the spike of adrenaline that had triggered at the flash of the sword at his face.
"Anyway," Rose raised her eyebrows at the two Time Lords, "we gonna get this show on the road and send me home?"
After checking on Lucy and finding her fast asleep and safely out of the way, the trio of Time Lords and the TARDIS began to prepare for their trip across universes.
"Are the temporal an' spatial buffers on?" the Doctor called.
"Yep," Rose answered. "They're active."
"Fully functional," the Master called back.
"Secondary power cache and converter?"
"Charged to full capacity and ready to go," Rose reported.
"Right." The Doctor took a deep breath, and displayed a manic grin. "Hold on."
And he flipped the switch on the machine that he and the Master had built to breach the walls safely, and pulled the TARDIS de-materialisation lever.
The TARDIS jerked violently, and proceeded to spin, career sideways, and generally behave like a plane in a turbulent thunderstorm. Her passengers were thrown about ruthlessly despite their firm holds.
For an instant Rose was upside down and nearly fell upwards before she tightened her grip, and was back the right way up a moment later. The Doctor was clinging to the console desperately with one hand while he manipulated the controls with the other, frantically trying to help the TARDIS remain stable. The Master had just latched onto one of the console room struts and was holding on for all he was worth.
Suddenly they hit something so hard that Rose was thrown loose and flew across the room, crashing into the floor. Then everything was still.
"Everyone alright?" the Doctor asked in concern.
"Peachy," the Master grumbled.
"I'm fine," Rose groaned, picking herself up off the floor.
I'm also fine. The TARDIS sounded tired.
"Where are we?" Rose asked.
"Time Vortex," the Doctor replied. He grinned at her. "Rose, time to contact your Doctor, an' seeing as there's only two TARDIS in existence right now that shouldn't be too hard."
With a final, mad beam, the Doctor tapped at the controls.
After a moment there was a chiming noise.
The comically-incredulous face of Rose's Doctor gaped at him from the screen.
"Oi, Pretty Boy," the Doctor instructed, "need to talk to you."
"What?" Rose's Doctor was still stuck in incredulous mode. "What are you contacting me for? This shouldn't even be possible!"
"Is that him?" the Master pushed his way into view and smirked at the screen. "He looks pathetic."
"Oh, really? Speaking of looks, nice to see you lost the goatee, you looked like a disaffected member of generation X," the other Doctor retorted, stung into moving on to Bewildered but Annoyed.
"You, clear off; you, focus," the Doctor told both of them. He directed his gaze back to the screen as the Master slunk out of view.
"What have you done?" Rose's Doctor demanded, his eyes full of fire and ice.
"I'm from the other universe," the Doctor said testily, "and this'd go faster if people'd quit interrupting. I've got Rose Tyler."
The other Doctor's face went blank with shock.
"That's impossible." All emotion had been sucked out of his voice.
"Your definition's a little skewed," the Doctor observed. "Anyway, we have Rose, who'd like to get back to you, and we've got a way to close the breach between universes afterwards but we're gonna need your help. Is there somewhere we can meet?"
Rose's Doctor rattled off a string of coordinates automatically, still looking as though someone had punched him.
"I'll see you there," he said absently, and the screen went dead.
"That's nice, not even a goodbye," the Doctor muttered, a bit offended, as he input the coordinates that the other Doctor had given him. The TARDIS began the materialisation sequence.
Rose stood there, feeling as though she couldn't breathe. To hear her Doctor's voice again…
"We're here," the Doctor announced. He joined Rose as the Master made for the door.
"Come on," he prompted, guiding Rose towards the door as well. "Let's go meet this husband o' yours."
The Master stepped out first, and was instantly the focus of attention for a man aiming a gun at him.
"Put your hands up or I will shoot, and believe me I would love to find an excuse to put you through a couple regenerations," the man in the greatcoat snarled. His very presence revolted both the Master and the Doctor on a temporal level.
"Yeah," he hears that a lot," the Doctor said, stepping out of the TARDIS as well. "Mostly from me, mind, but others as well sometimes."
The man in the greatcoat turned white as a ghost.
Rose emerged at that moment. She saw the man instantly and her eyes went as huge as his did.
"Jack!" she cried.
As though this were some kind of cue, a second TARDIS began to materialise as well.
Rose's Doctor stepped out, looked up, and saw Rose.
The blood drained from his face.
"Rose," he whispered.
The next instant he was spinning Rose around in the air, and she was laughing. Then he lowered her to the ground and pulled her into a desperate kiss.The man in the greatcoat beamed at both of them, while the Master watched with a kind of leering glee.
"You say a word and I'll tear off both your ears," the Doctor warned him, watching the couple in pleased interest.
"I'll help," the man in the greatcoat offered darkly.
The Doctor looked at him.
"And you are?"
"Captain Jack Harkness," the man said with a flirtatious grin. "You know, I'd say we'll meet, only I don't think you're the Doctor I know, are you?"
"Nope," the Doctor returned, mildly impressed at his insight. "From another universe, me."
"Same to you."
"Oh, please," the Master muttered. Louder, he called, "So, Doctor, did you know that you and Rose are married?"
Rose's Doctor, who had been murmuring things to her, deep heartfelt things, whirled in shock.
"What?" he squawked, gaping at the Master.
Rose scowled at the abrupt end to her romantic reunion. She walked towards the Master with purpose.
The Master's eyes widened.
"Ow!" the Master whinged, leaning back and putting a hand to his cheek. "Why must you always hit me, woman?"
"Blimey, shades of Jackie Tyler there," the other Doctor said in a wondering tone.
"Coz you deserved it," the Doctor said.
"That's for interrupting me and my Doctor," Rose said, glowering at the Master. "You got anything else to say?"
The Master scowled at her.
"Didn't think so."
Rose turned back to take her Doctor's hand. She looked into his eyes.
"I know it might freak you out a bit, but I'm fifty eight, I'm a Time Lord, and according to our time lines, we're married."
Her Doctor was looking gobsmacked, but he sought out the tumbling gold of their intertwined time lines. The expression on his face changed.
Shock, hope, disbelief, and fierce joy filled his eyes, and he looked down into Rose's own.
And they were back to kissing again.
The Master watched with a displeased expression.
"All this kissing is boring me," he told the Doctor, but quietly, not wanting to arouse Rose's wrath again.
"Tell you what, you behave yourself, and we'll stop by the Napoleonic Wars," the Doctor replied.
The Master's eyes gleamed in sudden glee.
"Ooh, red coats and bayonets!" he declared. "You've got me. It'll be like the Time War. I'm coming over all nostalgic already."
"You think too much about the Time War," the Doctor said, mildly enough.
"This from a man dressed like a member of the British infantry," the Master sneered. "And the Seal of Rassilon engraved on his big brass buttons. Do you remember how we fought at the fall of Pan Gallifreya? Fantastic!"
"I'm hardly gonna forget," the Doctor replied. "Shut it before Rose clobbers you for upsetting her precious Pretty Boy."
Captain Jack was frowning at them.
"Both of you fought in the Time War?"
"Nothing else I could do," the Doctor said, sounding like a soldier talking about his duty.
"Do you suppose I would miss a chance at such chaos and destruction?" the Master retorted.
"In this universe you did," the Captain said contemptuously. "You were so terrified that you ran all the way to the end of the universe and hid yourself under a Chameleon Arch, so that the big bad Daleks would never find you."
The Master's eyes glinted with murderous intent.
"Different universe," the Doctor interposed. "Everything's a bit different in a parallel universe, even the people."
"Can I kill him?"
The Master asked the question quite calmly, eyes cold and glittering.
"No killing anybody," Rose ordered. She and her Doctor had come to some kind of understanding while the others were talking. She smiled at Jack.
"'D you miss me?"
Jack smiled warmly in return to the tongue-in-teeth grin.
"Every minute of every day."
Both of them stepped forward at the same time and Rose flung her arms around his neck as he wrapped his own around her and hugged tight.
"I'm so sorry," Rose said into his shoulder. "I'm so, so sorry, Jack, for everything I did to you. I never meant it. I just didn't want you to die." She looked up at him earnestly, eyes painful.
The Doctor and the Master exchanged glances of intrigue.
Jack's eyes darkened slightly, although he was still smiling and his hold on Rose didn't slacken one bit.
"Hey, I'm flattered, sweetheart. You were doing your best to save my life, anything else was accidental. Water under the bridge."
He dropped a kiss on her forehead in an affectionate gesture, smiling warmly at her.
"Don't worry about it," he finished simply.
"I hate to interrupt," the Doctor spoke up, "but it's time we toddled off back to our own universe, and we're gonna need your help," he nodded in the other Doctor's direction, "to close the breach behind us."
Rose's Doctor ran a hand over his ridiculous hair.
"Right," he said. "Better get to it, then."
The Doctor turned to Rose.
"You look after yourself," he ordered. "Pretty Boy here, too."
He heard Jack chortle at the name.
"Gonna miss you," Rose told him wistfully.
"I know," he told her honestly. "Me too."
And because she clearly wanted to hug him, he held out his arms in invitation.
Rose flung herself into them, and for a moment he held her tight.
Rose's grip loosened, and he let go of her and stepped back.
He was going to miss her like anything.
"Rose Tyler," the Doctor said with complete sincerity, "have a fantastic life."
She gave a sobbing laugh, and wiped at her eyes.
"I will. You too, yeah?" She turned to the Master, and managed a genuine grin despite the fact that some tears had made it out. "An' you, try not to get into too much trouble, all right?"
The Master smirked.
"I'll stop short of making the Doctor tear his hair out," he allowed. "Rassilon forbid, he has so little as it is."
He continued to smirk at Rose, while the Doctor ignored the way Rose's Doctor had sniggered. There was a devilish glint in the Master's eyes.
"And since this is goodbye…"
Before Rose knew what was happening, the Master had grabbed her hand, twirled her around, and wrapping an arm securely around her waist, bent her backwards. Eyes alight with mischief and laughter, he kissed her.
Rose's Doctor bristled like an angry cat, but the Doctor spoke before he could storm over.
"Hold on a mo.'"
The Master helped Rose back upright, grinning madly. Rose gave him a startled stare, then burst into laughter.
The Master walked back to join the Doctor, strutting slightly, looking very smug and pleased with himself.
He smirked at the other Doctor's glare.
"It's alright, Doctor," Rose told her husband, smiling mischievously. She turned to stare at the TARDIS.
Whatever passed between the two was spoken on a private level, because the Doctor couldn't hear it.
Rose gave the TARDIS a fond, tender smile, and turned back to the Master and the Doctor.
"Right," the Doctor said briskly, "we'll be off. You remember what needs to happen on your end?"
Rose just nodded, eyes shiny with tears again. She was smiling though, and her hand was firmly linked with her Doctor's.
Rose's Doctor gave him a serious stare.
"Thank you." His eyes flickered to the Master, and he added grudgingly, "both of you."
The Doctor nodded in acknowledgement, smiled encouragingly at Rose, and with a "come on, you," to the Master walked back to his TARDIS.
Afterwards the Master and the Doctor were left standing in the console room. There was silence for a few minutes.
"She's gone." That was from the Master.
"Yep." The Doctor.
"You're going to miss her, aren't you?"
"Yep," the Doctor replied, just as shortly.
The Master achieved an artistic sigh.
"No one else now, just the two of us." He smirked, leering a little.
The Doctor knew him well enough that he didn't even need to look at the Master's expression.
"I wouldn't want you even if you were a girl," the Doctor didn't miss a beat, "you're too much trouble and you use up all the soap. Too high maintenance, you are."
"I wouldn't want you either," the Master retorted, looking disgusted, "you've got big ears and look like a skinhead, or a rocker."
"And you look like a mod," the Doctor returned, "So it's all nice and symbolic, glad we've got that sorted out."
There was a short silence, now that there wasn't an argument to fill it.
"Aren't you going to miss her?" The Doctor was genuinely curious. "You were all over her."
He resisted the fleeting temptation to add, 'like a rash.'
The Master shrugged.
"I like her. But that little human we picked up interests me."
"Rassilon help us all when you're bored," the Doctor muttered.
"Which reminds me, in a day or so, could you drop us at Mercelin in about, ooh, the 67th century?"
"I hear the prisons are nice there," the Doctor commented idly. "A cell to yourself, an entertainment fixture, quality healthcare, the lot. Doubt they'd let you keep the tailored suit, though."
The Master made a mock hurt face.
"Why is it that you always believe the worst of me?"
"Because it's all I've ever known since I first met you, right back when you recalibrated the settings on the security monitors in our dormitory."
"That was fun, wasn't it?" The Master grinned in memory.
"It was, until you blamed me for it and I was put in charge of maintenance for the lot of them," the Doctor responded. The Master grinned further.
"Fun," he reiterated, and strolled down the hallway, probably to see if Lucy was awake yet. If not, she soon would be, knowing the Master.
What about you? The Doctor asked the TARDIS. He was aware that she was, after all, the person who had first insisted that Rose be brought on board. She'd like Rose enough to throw a toaster at him. That was a first.
I will miss her, the TARDIS agreed, with tones of mingled satisfaction and wistfulness. Her mind fitted into mine so well. Her touch was full of love, no matter which universe I belonged to.
The Doctor thought he understood what she meant. Rose hadn't ever learnt to connect to other Time Lords, so the Doctor wasn't particularly aware of her on a telepathic level, but she had treated him with a deep-seated familiarity and fondness that he hadn't experienced in a long time. Stranger or not, to her he was the Doctor even if not hers, and she clearly held him dear.
It had awoken parts of him he'd thought dead with Gallifrey.
She's back where she belongs, I suppose.
There was a comfortable silence for a while.
Although now I'm just left with you and that sociopathic imbecile.
The TARDIS tolerated the Master's presence, but she hadn't liked him ever since he had called her an obsolete piece of junk centuries earlier, and had liked him even less after he had temporarily absconded with her and treated her with the same callous abandon with which he had previously treated his own TARDIS.
I know the feeling, the Doctor muttered.
He and the Master couldn't bear to be alone for too long, which was why they often travelled together even though they couldn't stand each other. To be honest, despite their mutual dislike, they'd become strangely fond of one another. The Doctor sometimes wondered if it was the remains of their long-ago friendship, deeply buried until now, or simply a side-affect of being the last two Time Lords in existence.
Far too often, people mistook them for brothers.
Yeah, well, hopefully the human girl will keep him out of trouble. I mean, it's not like she could make him worse.
The TARDIS replied with ominous silence.
Oh, wonderful, he snarked. Just what I need.
The TARDIS just laughed at him.