When the TARDIS landed, the Doctor knew something was very wrong.
Well, in general, the TARDIS landing meant something was very wrong. Sometimes it didn't even wait to land for things to get buggered up. But this was different. Most of the problems he dealt with were mere snarls in the fabric of space-time. Runs, occasionally, that needed to be mended or they'd rip long lines through history, or that's how it would be if time were like a pair of nylons, which it really, really wasn't. Not even a little.
No, this was something worse. Silence.
Days like this, he knew he should just start the TARDIS right back up again, and go someplace where he could pretend he had things under control. He checked the TARDIS's controls. Even the TARDIS had no idea what year it was. He sympathized. There was air outside, oh, and gravity, that was useful. No dangerous forms of radiation, or dangerous to him, anyway. He wouldn't die just by stepping out the door.
And besides, for some reason, the external monitor wouldn't give him a picture of whatever was out there. So the only way to know was to look. Looking at familiar things that were easily accessible with the TARDIS was only fun when he had some young person standing next to him, and could see it for the first time through their eyes. But this...this made him feel young. This was butterflies in his stomach. It felt awful, and he relished every moment of it.
The Doctor swung the doors wide open, and took a deep breath.
For an instant, he was almost disappointed. It looked like Earth, it even tasted like Earth, if a bit...stale, somehow. This was Japan. He couldn't quite put his finger on the year (was that automobile pollution he tasted? Surely it was too early for that) but the architecture was undeniably Japanese, and the woman standing there was dressed elaborately as a Japanese queen. And she was...she was....
"Oh, no," he said. He knew where he was. That was enough: he came, he saw, and he should really go now. But he looked at the woman again, and along with the parts that made his skin crawl in terror, he found something about the way she bent the logic of the universe to be...beautiful. Fascinating.
"Welcome," she said, and took a few steps towards him. "I am Ichihara Yuuko."
"I'm the Doctor. This isn't where I set my destination coordinates," the Doctor said.
"Your coming here was hitsuzen."
"You did this, then. How did you control the TAR--"
"You did this," she said.
His first impulse was to tell her that was ridiculous, but in all honesty, he'd seen stranger things. Something told him this wasn't productive. He wasn't asking the right questions.
"Why am I here?" he asked at length.
Yuuko smiled. That was the right question. "Because you have a wish."
The Doctor wasn't often in the position of having his wishes granted by others. But everything in this shop was imbued with power, from the baubles in her hair to the lines of shadow and light that stretched out around her feet and all over the shop. It was subtle enough that humans and the like would probably miss it unless she brought a thread to the surface for some purpose, but he could see them: non-euclidean self-similar geometric shapes. He focused on one that was bigger than the others, that sprawled over the entire shop, and recognized it as a mathematical representation of time. Stopped.
One of his hearts skipped a beat, throwing them momentarily out of tandem. He hated that feeling. And he loved it.
"Even if I do have wishes," the Doctor said at length, "they come at equivalent cost, don't they?"
"There is a price," Yuuko confirmed.
"Not much to gain then, is there?"
"It depends on what it is you ask for. If it were, for example, something with great universal value..."
"Like my planet," the Doctor offered.
"...yes, like that," Yuuko said. "You could not begin to pay the price, not with your millennium of memories, or your considerable remaining life energy, or even with the TARDIS."
"Nine hundred years of memories," the Doctor asserted. "I'm not old."
Yuuko raised her elegant eyebrows before continuing. "But if you were to choose something with great personal value, and low universal value, you might find it a bargain."
"I can tell you have something in mind."
"It is what brought you here. Curious, in all your years, you have elected to solve your own problems, and suffer your own failures, yet now you should find yourself in my shop. What is it that you cannot do for yourself, yet cannot leave undone?"
"There's a girl," the Doctor said hesitantly. "I lost her. In another dimension. I could show you which one." He shrugged. "I could get her myself, you know. It would make both our universes collapse within the next thirty years or so, but I could do it. What's a universe or two between friends, eh?"
"For you, the price is too heavy," Yuuko said. "For me, it is much lighter. I move people through dimensions regularly."
"I'll give you one of my regenerations for her," the Doctor said, suddenly very serious. "One of my lives, for a life with her, how's that? Only, try to take one I haven't used yet. I think she likes my hair this time around."
Yuuko shook her head, the baubles in her hair swaying with the movement. "It doesn't work like that. What you offer is too much."
"Whether the price is too great or too small, the catastrophe is equal to the difference. I could no more take too much than I could take too little."
"So throw in a newspaper subscription and a blender, I don't care," the Doctor said. "Even it out somehow."
"I can't," Yuuko said. "But there is another price that I believe would be appropriate."
"And that is?"
"Tell me your name."
"Didn't you catch it? I'm the Doctor."
Yuuko smiled. "No. Your name."
"Ah, that, see...I can't."
"It is the price for the girl's passage across dimensions."
The Doctor had to remind himself, strongly, that crying twice in as many days would just be unseemly. "I'm sorry, then. I can't pay it." He turned back towards the TARDIS, then whirled around towards Yuuko again. "I don't suppose that's your final offer."
Yuuko walked closer to him, and her very presence, her stopped time, made him feel sick enough to wonder what he last ate, and if he'd be likely to be seeing it again shortly. "I understand your hesitance," she said softly. "Names are powerful things."
"It's not just names, it's my name. In your hands. It would be...irresponsible."
"As irresponsible as destroying two universes?"
"Almost. Not quite." He smiled slightly, although come to think of it, there wasn't much to smile about. He turned to leave again, when Yuuko said something that stopped him in his tracks.
"She won't ever give up."
"She'll have to eventually. Even I've given up. It's hopeless. And humans are resilient. She's got her family there, her whole life ahead of her. She'll move on."
"Do you understand what Dreamseeing is, Doctor?"
This time he got chills. "Yes."
"She will not give up. She will grow old and die searching for you, pining for you. She will not lose faith in you. She will never consider the thought that you've given up on her."
Unseemly or not, he was crying. He wouldn't turn around, wouldn't show Yuuko that. He knew Yuuko had also been waiting for him a long time--it must have taken her a decade alone just to make that dress. She had waited this long to see a Time Lord, and he would give her one, not a blubbering fool.
"Ask for something else," he said. "I can't give you that. Ask for something I can give."
"It is you who needs to ask for something else, then."
"Can you make Rose give up on me?" the Doctor asked.
Yuuko was silent a moment. "There is...a way. It will not be easy for you."
"What is the price?"
"A small piece of crystal from the core of the TARDIS."
The Doctor tried not to think about how dangerous something like that could be in Yuuko's hands. "I'll go get it."
It wasn't until he finally saw him, the metacrisis, that the Doctor understood. So this was Yuuko's doing, the fine adjustments of probability and possibility to make an outcome where Rose Tyler would give up on him.
He understood his end of the bargain, as Yuuko knew he would. Without her intervention, he never would have seen Rose again.
As Rose kissed the man with his face, the Doctor walked away. It was true, everything they said about the Dimensional Witch. She was cruel, and she was kind.