Chapter 1: Chapter One
Rose stood on the bleak, lonely sands of Bad Wolf Bay, staring out into the water, the wind whipping her hair around her face. She'd stood here many times before, and she'd stand here many times after this. She came back here every month, just on the slightest chance that the Doctor would be able to return, or send her another message. Her mum and dad, while not entirely happy with Rose taking such regular pilgrimages, told her they understood her reasons, and her dad always came along so she wouldn't have to travel all that way by herself (her mum would have come along, too, but there was nobody who could watch Tony, and Rose wasn't about to bring a little kid along on such an important journey, even if he was her little brother). Rose wouldn't let her dad join her on the beach, though; she always ordered him to stay with the car. If, by some miracle, the Doctor did come, or message her, she didn't want anyone, not even her dad, to intrude on whatever precious moments she and the Doctor might have together.
It really wasn't fair. She'd left behind a wonderful life in her world; a life full of adventure and excitement and travel. Even her life on Earth before she'd met the Doctor hadn't been all that bad, albeit a bit dull. But here, in the parallel world, she was constantly exhausted, physically and emotionally. Fighting Cybermen and Daleks and all sorts of other nasties, and all on her home planet. Not an extra sun or a purple sky or a funny-looking tree to admire in between the endless battles and the constant running. No one there to take her hand, grin widely, and run with her.
Rose raised her hand to eye level and splayed her fingers, letting the cold wind swirl around the digits as she studied the lines in her palm and the calluses that had developed since her hand had last held the Doctor's. She could almost feel his hand in hers, his long fingers interlocking perfectly with her own, the touch of his cool alien skin seeping through her palm and sending delicious shivers up her arm. That was one of the things that was different about the man he'd left her with. The Doctor in this universe...his hand was as warm as hers. And, try as she might, she couldn't feel a thing when he held her hand, except disgust and disappointment that his hand was so bloody hot.
She had broken things off with the half-human version of him a few months ago; while the two Doctors had the same face and memories and thought patterns, they weren't the same man. It had just made things worse for her: seeing his beloved face and his bright smile, hearing his voice and the way her name rolled off his tongue like music, but knowing all the time that it wasn't him.Whenever she'd rested her head against his chest, the single beat sounded wrong, the silence between the beats deafening; empty moments of time where a second heartbeat should be.
The real Doctor may have thought she'd be good for his duplicate, and maybe she had been, but the duplicate Doctor was not good for her. When she'd informed the Doctor in this world of her decision (she refused to think of him as her Doctor; as far as she was concerned, the man with that title was lost to her forever), he'd just smiled sadly, as though he'd known it was coming, and nodded, kissing her on the forehead and whispering, "Goodbye, Rose Tyler," before walking out of the flat they'd been sharing for the past year.
That was the last she'd seen of him. She had no idea where he was now, or what he was doing. But since it was his fault she'd never see the Doctor again (the real one), Rose wasn't sure she cared.
The human Doctor had destroyed the dimension cannon after they'd returned from the real world, insisting it was far too dangerous to risk using it now that the universe had properly sealed itself off, and Rose now had no hope of seeing her beloved Time Lord ever again. Why, Doctor? she thought sadly, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. Why couldn't you stay with me? Why couldn't I come with you? I thought you loved me. I'd rather die, be really dead in the real universe, than have to live the rest of my life in this universe without you. As tears slipped, unnoticed, down her cheeks, she whispered, letting the wind carry her words out to sea, "I'd do anything to get back to you."
"Anything?" A soft voice behind her made her jump and turn around so quickly, she nearly lost her balance.
"Who the hell are you?" Rose asked angrily, steadying herself and swiping a hand across her face to get her hair out of her eyes.
"A friend," said the tall figure. Rose couldn't see his whole face, as it was shrouded by the dark cloak he wore, but she saw a pale chin poking out from under the recesses of the hood. "At least, I hope to be, Rose."
"What do you want?" She asked suspiciously, casually placing a hand at her hip, resting it on the sonic disruptor attached to her belt.
"I want to help you," said the cloaked man, waving a thin hand in a magnanimous gesture. "You're dead inside, here in this world. You want to get back to the world you truly belong in," he said. "And I can help you with that."
"You can?" said Rose, relaxing slightly, her heart starting to beat faster as the possibility of it filled her head. To be able to see the Doctor again! To hold the real him, kiss the real him; to not have to settle for that facsimile back in this world's London.
"Of course I can, Rose Tyler," the voice said softly. "I have helped many people who were in desperate or unjust situations, just like yourself. I can help you, too. And all I need from you is your agreement."
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
Rose discusses this "agreement" with the mysterious cloaked figure.
"All I need is your agreement."
"My agreement?" said Rose skeptically, placing her hands on her hips. "Just say 'yes,' and I'm where I want to be?"
"That's all," the man said, and Rose thought she saw a thin lip curve up in a slight smile.
"I don't even have to click my heels or turn around three times or anything?"
"Just agree," the man nodded, reaching out a pale hand, long thin fingers trembling, curved slightly in anticipation. "Shall we shake on it, then, dear Rose?"
Rose raised an eyebrow. "Not so fast, if that's quite alright with you. I've got a few questions."
"What's your name, anyway?" Rose asked.
"I have many names. Some that I've helped have called me their Angel."
"Are you?" asked Rose. "An angel, I mean?"
Rose saw that pale lip curve again. "Angels help those who cannot help themselves. I have come here to help you, Rose Tyler."
"Yeah," said Rose. "About that. What's the catch?"
"No catch," said the cloaked man, shaking his head as he withdrew his hand back into the voluminous folds of his dark cloak.
Rose rolled her eyes and snorted. "Seriously, mate, I wasn't born yesterday. There's always a catch. What's in it for you?"
"All I want is to help you get back to the place you belong. To the man you belong with."
"Oh, come on," said Rose shortly, annoyed. "Like you're my Fairy bloody Godmother, right? Stop treating me like I'm some stupid little girl."
The hood of the cloak tilted, as though the man was nodding deferentially. "My apologies. That was not my intention."
"Well?" asked Rose impatiently, tossing her wind-blown hair out of her face. "Are you gonna tell me what's really going on, here, or do I have to beat it out of you?"
The man gave a small sigh and shrugged. "I will have to remove someone from the universe you wish to travel to, in order to maintain balance. They will be brought here, to this universe, to take your place, as you take theirs in your universe."
"What, like another person?" asked Rose. She thought for a moment, then shook her head. "As much as I want to go back, I can't let you do that. The Doctor wouldn't like it."
"Don't worry," said the man soothingly, patting her arm with one thin hand. "It won't be anyone of any importance."
Rose sighed and ran a hand through her disheveled hair. "The Doctor would say that there's no such thing as a person who's not important."
"Would he, now?" The voice sounded amused. "No human, then," he amended, with a wave of his hand.
"What, like an alien?" said Rose. She chewed her bottom lip, then shook her head again. That wasn't such a bad idea, but... "I dunno," she said slowly. "That still doesn't seem quite right." She wouldn't wish this dreadful world on anyone...except maybe those Raxicorico-whatsits.
"I would remove an anomaly," said the man. "Something that doesn't belong on Earth, something that was never supposed to exist. I can promise you, Rose Tyler, that no one born on Earth will be harmed."
Rose hesitated, weakening. Removing something that had never belong there in the first place...that would be okay, wouldn't it? That seemed like something the Doctor would do. Protect the Earth, right? And this man was promising that no one would be hurt...
"In a way," continued the man, his voice persuasive and soothing, "You would be helping me to restore the balance to that universe. You belong there. This...anomaly...never should have been created in the first place. It was created to cause great harm to the human race, and was not destroyed when the opportunity arose. You, however, were born on Earth. Grew up there. You, along with the Doctor, have rescued that universe from so many perils."
"That I have," said Rose, proudly.
"Indeed," the man agreed. "You, Rose Tyler, are meant to help the human race. This dangerous, inhuman creature is taking up a valuable place in that universe...one that rightfully belongs to you.And that is what's in it for me. Restoring the natural order of things."
"Well," said Rose, tugging on her sleeve, "that sounds good. But that still doesn't explain why. I mean, thanks for looking out for the balance of the universe and all, but why come to me? Surely there are other people you can go to."
"Because the Doctor needs you."
"Is he in trouble?" Rose asked, alert. "He's not hurt, is he?"
The man shrugged one thin shoulder. "It's hard to say. 'Trouble' is rather his normal state of being, is it not?"
"I mean, in big trouble," said Rose. "The really bad kind." The kind he needs me for, she thought.
"I cannot tell you for certain. But he's...changed since you left. He's become a completely different person."
Rose sighed sadly and her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, my poor Doctor," she whispered. "I was afraid that might happen." Her heart filled with longing. Longing to hold him and tell him everything was going to be okay. That she would never leave him again.
Nodding emphatically, she straightened, squared her shoulders, and tossed her hair out of her eyes. "Okay, then. If the Doctor needs me, then I agree."
She thought she saw a row of pointy teeth bared, as though the man was grinning.
"Excellent," he said softly, and waved his hands.
Hold on, Doctor. I'm on my way, Rose thought, as the world spun around her.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Rory and Amy decide they want to meet one of the Doctor's friends, rather than an enemy
"Alright then," said the Doctor, fiddling with a switch on the TARDIS console, "where do you want to go next, Ponds? You can choose, if you like. Nowhere with fish, though. I know I'm not in the mood for fish right now. At least, not flying fish, which rules out Valoquia Seven. Though their flying fish are trained, sort of like how you humans train your seals to bounce balls off their noses; it's actually quite brilliant. I remember a routine they did to that classic ballad from a popular twenty-fourth century techno-country-blues band -"
Before the Doctor could descend into full-on Reminiscing Mode (and before Rory could ask, with morbid curiosity, exactly what a techno-country-blues band sounded like), Amy tossed her hair and said, "I want to know what you were doing while we were honeymooning."
"Thanks for that, by the way," said Rory, banishing any qualms about the quality of music in the twenty-fourth century. He'd be dead by then, anyway, right? No need to fret about the stuff his great-great-great-great-grandkids would be listening to.
"You're welcome," said the Doctor, smiling. "Glad you liked it. I've never had newlyweds before. Figured that's what you married sorts do when you get married. Go honeymooning. And where better to honeymoon than on a planet that's just got married, itself? All that lovely honeymooning, all in one place."
"It was nice," said Rory. "Up until, you know, the almost-crashing."
"I got that sorted in the end, didn't I?" said the Doctor defensively.
"You did," said Amy reassuringly, patting the Doctor on the shoulder. "But don't dodge the question. What'd you do? You didn't just float around in the TARDIS the whole time, did you?"
"No. I did a bit of this and that," said the Doctor, shrugging, focusing his attention on the TARDIS controls in front of him. "Built a fun new transporting machine-thingy from scratch. Went to a funeral. Mine, that is. Defeated some evil alien vultures called the Shansheeth. Though the Shansheeth aren't a bad lot, just these blokes. Saw some old friends. Blew stuff up. Well, watched stuff blow up. Nothing too exciting."
"Sounds completely dull," said Rory dryly.
"Old friends?" asked Amy, perking up like a hound on the scent of a good hunt. "You've got old friends?"
"Of course I've got old friends!" exclaimed the Doctor, a bit testily. "I'm over nine hundred years old. Why wouldn't I have friends?"
"I didn't mean it like that," said Amy apologetically. "I should have known you'd have friends. I guess I just never thought of you as the sort to, you know, keep in touch. Since you're always bouncing around time and space and all, it must be difficult for them to send you a Christmas card."
"Wait...did you say your funeral?" asked Rory, quizzically.
"The Shansheeth stole my TARDIS and tried to use the memories of some of my former traveling companions to make a new key," the Doctor explained absentmindedly, voice muffled, as he ducked his head under the console and soniced a switch that had been giving him a bit of trouble (it kept sticking, which caused the TARDIS to land about twenty feet to the left of where he wanted it to. Not usually a problem, but if it wasn't fixed, they'd end up landing over a cliff or inside a wall). "The Shansheeth lured them there by telling them I was dead."
"That's horrible!" said Amy. "I hope your friends didn't have heart attacks when they saw you."
"Nah," said the Doctor, straightening up and turning his head to grin at Amy. "They knew I wasn't dead. Haven't I told you I only take the best? And Sarah and Jo, they're clever girls; they knew not to believe it."
"Figures they'd be women," said Amy, nudging the Doctor affectionately with her hip. "Do you always travel with women, Doctor?"
"You're like Captain Kirk," said Rory. "Except, instead of a girlfriend on every planet, you've got one in every decade of Earth's history. And, I dunno, maybe one on every planet, too."
"Oi!" exclaimed the Doctor, flipping his hair out of his eyes. "I do not. And they're not girlfriends."
"Are they pretty?" asked Amy.
"Yes, I suppose," said the Doctor, with a careless shrug. "For humans. I don't really pay attention to that sort of thing."
"Do you like hanging out with them?"
"Sure, but I enjoy spending time with just about anyone."
"Have you ever kissed them?"
"No—not these two, but a couple of the others," said the Doctor. "But not, you know, for the usual kissy reasons. There were extenuating circumstances for each and every one, I'm sure of it."
"So, they're pretty, you like them, and you've kissed them," said Amy triumphantly, ticking each point off on her fingers. "They're totally your girlfriends. Just how many have you got?"
"They are not girlfriends!" the Doctor protested. He shot Rory a pleading look. "You've got friends who are girls, don't you?"
"I'm not getting involved in this," said Rory, shaking his head. "You're on your own."
"Prove it, Doctor," said Amy, as though Rory hadn't spoken. "I want to meet one."
"One what?" asked the Doctor warily.
"Of these not-girlfriends of yours," said Amy. "That's what we want to do. Right, Rory?" She turned to her husband and sent him a Look.
"Actually, yeah," said Rory, ignoring his wife's gaze. "I'd be interested in meeting one of your old friends. You know, instead of an old enemy."
"Well," the Doctor began, rubbing the back of his neck.
"You said we could choose," interrupted Amy. "We choose to meet one of them. You can pick which one."
"So generous," muttered the Doctor huffily, rolling his eyes. "Oh, all right." He ran a hand through his messy hair. "I've got it!" he exclaimed. "I've been meaning to drop by Sarah Jane's to see if she's got a Velarian Corfibulator; I need a new one, and she had one last time I was there. It was just collecting dust, so I might as well take it off her hands, right? And she told me I'm not allowed to just nip in and take them anymore, after that time with the Tim Tams."
"Tim Tams?" said Rory. "You mean, like, the biscuits?"
"I like them!" said the Doctor. "And Sarah Jane always has them, 'cause they're Clyde's favorites, too."
"Alright, then," said Amy. "Sarah Jane, it is."