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A Reunion with a Stranger

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Oh, damn, she hoped he got her message. Otherwise, well, she didn’t know what she would do.

        Rose Tyler was pacing. She was mildly concerned that she would leave a mark in the grass of Mickey and Martha’s backyard, but that was secondary. Everything felt secondary as she checked her watch for what felt like the hundredth time.

            When she turned up on Mickey and Martha’s doorstep two days ago, she was half sure Martha would faint at the sight of her. And then, of course, Mickey did faint. But after that, they had hugged and laughed and cried, and Rose had forgotten about the reason she had come, at least for a short while. For a little bit she was just happy to be with her friend.

        Mickey and Martha had filled her in on when she was – it had been almost seven years since she had last seen them. They assumed that it had been less time for her, seeing as she had barely changed. She didn’t bother to correct them.

        It took about a day for Martha to finally gather up the courage and ask –should she contact the Doctor. Rose could barely say yes, and when she did, it came out as a breath.

        It took another few hours for Rose to gather up the courage to ask what had been on her mind.

        “Martha, do you know if he… changed?”

        “You mean if he regenerated?”

        “Yea.”

        She gave Rose an apologetic look. “Sorry, no – I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time I did… I thought he might be about to,  but I’m not sure”

        “It wouldn’t matter if he did. It would just be nice to know, you know?”

        “Well, even if he did, it would just be the wrapping, not him.” Rose didn’t seem very comforted, so Martha changed tactics. “Did you know that I used to hate you? Before I even met you. God, I was so  jealous. I was young and in love with the idea of the Doctor,  but all he could talk about was you. He lost his memory once, and he still remembered you. I doubt something like a regeneration would change how important you are to him. Now, I told him to be here tomorrow at nine, so you have some time to prepare. And that’s if he is on time, which is always a bargain.”

 

So there she was. Waiting. Pacing. Worrying.

        And then she heard it. The familiar grinding of the TARDIS landing. The grating noise was wonderful, like music to her ears. She peered around the side of the house, to see the familiar blue glow. She stayed there, waiting to see who  walked out of the TARDIS.

        She was starting to grow anxious, when a head of floppy hair popped out of the doors. It looked around, before exiting.

        He had regenerated.

        She supposed that is why chose to stay hidden for a few moments longer. Trying to get her head around the new Doctor, before she would actually talk to him.

        He was hunched over, looking more like a grumpy grandfather than she had ever seen him, despite his new youthful appearance. She could hear him mumbling something about “Martha,” “Hundreds of years,” and “Urgent surprise.”

        Suddenly, a dog from the next door started barking, and he immediately whipped out his sonic, standing at full height.

        Simultaneously, Rose stepped back at the sound of the barking dog, and she tripped over a flower pot.

        Rose absently thought about whether Martha or Mickey would be the one maintaining a garden. Both seemed unlikely.

        She managed to stay on her feet, but had her back turned to where the doctor had just been, when she heard the sound of the sonic again, this time much closer.

She heard the intake of breath as she turned around, and locked eyes

They stood a few feet from each other, staring and studying.

A sad, wistful smile grew on he doctors face. "Rose Tyler," he said, barely, a whisper. A confirmation to himself that she was real and she was there.

"Hello, Doctor." Rose grinned back, a few tears escaping.

They remained frozen for a few more beats, eyes locked, until the moment broke. They simultaneously ran to each other. On instinct, rose jumped, and the Doctor caught, easily falling back into sync.

Rose's tears flowed freely now, but she was laughing through them. Gone was the Doctor’s sad smile, replaced by the one less often seen, the smile reserved for moments of true joy, moments like this.

"I can't believe you're here, I can’t believe that I'm here" Rose said, still held in the air, hugging the doctor.

"I believe you're the one who surprised me, so I get to be the one in disbelief. And I like to believe, believe me. So, it seems like we have a lot to catch up on." The Doctor put her down at last, and drank her in.

He shook his head, still refusing to believe his luck, as he muttered "Rose Tyler, the girl who never fails to surprise me."

        “So it’s you then? Really you? Just a new face?”

        Anxiety washed over him, “yes, its me. New exterior, same old brain.”

        She stepped back, and examined him. He shifted his weight uneasily, wringing his hands.

        Finally, Rose broke the silence, “A bow tie?”

        “What? Yes! A bow tie. Bow ties happen to be very cool.” The Doctor replied, indignant.

        “I haven’t been gone that long, Doctor.” She smiled. He would go anywhere, do anything, to keep that smile on her face.

        “Rose Tyler, are you mocking me?”

        “Me? Never.” Her grin grew cheekier. “The rest… Well. Very professor-y, very Indiana Jones. It suits you,” the Doctor returned the grin, as she adjusted his bow tie, “As does the bow tie.”

        He rested his forehead on hers, “Rose Tyler. How are you here?”

        She jerked her head back, turning away from him. That was no good; he had spent centuries away from Rose Tyler, he refused spend the immediate future the same way. Before he could tell her this, she spoke.

        “Does it matter how I’m here? I’m here, isn’t that the important bit?”

        “No, all of the bits are the important bits. Rose, what aren’t you telling me? What happened to Handy? And your mum and dad?”

        She didn’t answer, and she didn’t turn to face him.

        “You were going to try, with Handy. You were going to try! Why wouldn’t you try? I wanted you two to have a long happy life, Rose!”

        She turned to him, new ferocity in her eyes, ferocity he hadn’t seen before. “We had a happy life! Doctor, we did. But then he went and got himself killed!”

        The look on his face dropped. He opened his mouth to speak a few times, but nothing came out.

        “Yea, he had too much you in ‘im, I guess. He went out with Torchwood one day, and never came back. I could have been there, should have been there. But I was home. With mum and Tony.”

        “How long?” Was all he said.

        “Three and a half years.”

        “And you left? Left your mum and Pete and Tony?”

        “Of course I didn’t leave! I stayed and watched them get all old and wrinkly. I watched them all die, Doctor!”

        “But, Rose. How? If they got all wrinkly, and you’re still not wrinkly… How?”

        “Bad Wolf.”

        Bad Wolf. It still popped up in his life from time to time, the saying that had dominated so much of their time together. But how could it have… When she… “Bad Wolf. When you became Bad Wolf, it did something to you?” She nodded. “Oh, Rose. I am so sorry,” He took her in his arms again, “That is something I never, never wanted you to go through.”

        She looked up at him, a forced smile on her face. “Well, it did. But its not all bad, is it? I had time to work with Torchwood on the dimension cannon. I got back here, back to you. And I can travel again.” Her face fell, “I mean, only if you want to. I know its been a while for you, centuries, even. It’s only been around 40-60 years for me, but – “

“Rose! Rose – of course I want you with me. I mean traveling with me. Wherever, whenever I go, you are always welcome there.”

        The tears in her eyes began to well once again. She wiped them away, as she grabbed on to his arm, pulling him towards the house.

        “Come on, there are two old friends who are dying to yell at you.”




Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

            Rose was sat to the side, knees tucked to her chest, cradling a cup of tea. She sat back and watched as Martha, Mickey, and the Doctor became reacquainted.

            After the initial rage from Martha, having gone so long with no word, they seemed to fall into a familiar pattern. The reunion had gone about as well as Rose had expected.

            The Doctor had been impulsively wringing his hands, hunched over himself once more while trailing behind Rose as she entered the house.

            As they walked through the back door into the living room, Martha and Mickey stood. The three of them said nothing, just staring at each other. Waves of anger were all but rolling off of Martha, and Rose saw Mickey place his hand on her lower back, to anchor her, she assumed. She knew the move well from when they were dating. It never really worked on Rose, and it seemed as though it wasn’t working with Martha, either.

            “Look who I found,” Rose said, just to break the tension.

            The Doctor gave a half wave, his chest and head leaning back, as though to get as far away as possible. “Hello, Smiths!” He greeted, meekly.

            “Smiths? You think I would drop my name that easily? Wow, you don’t know me at all. But then again, you wouldn’t know me after seven years of silence. But wait, its only seven years for me. How long has it been for you, Doctor? Decades? Centuries.” She slowly approached him as she spoke, her finger jabbing out.

            At her silence, he replied, “Oh, am I supposed to answer? Sorry. Centuries! Yes, centuries. Saving lives, travelling, hero-stuff, you know. The usual—“

            Martha cut him off. “Centuries? Do you hear that, Mickey? Centuries. The big, brave, Doctor. Too important, too alien to need friends. Never mind that we have been worried out of our minds, because the last time we saw you, you were regenerating.

            The new and unfamiliar eyes of the Doctor shifted. He simultaneously looked like a chastened puppy, and somehow a tired, weary old man. “It’s easier this way, each regeneration. A new slate. Saves me and you from the whiplash. And you had a life now—I didn’t want to get in the way of that.”

            At this, Martha was quiet. Rose was quiet. A clean slate. How did she fit into this clean slate? Everyone was quiet for a long pause, until Mickey finally spoke.

            “Have you been alone?”

            “What?”

            “Have you been alone? You shouldn’t be alone, you know that. We all know that, you don’t do well alone.”

            The look on the Doctor’s face made Rose more interested in the answer than she allowed herself to look.

            “No, I wasn’t alone. I travelled with some people. Wonderful, brilliant people, for years. Saw their wedding—that was a time. I do love weddings.” The last part was said mostly to himself.

            “What happened?” Martha asked. Rose was glad she did, as she didn’t think she would be able to.

            “I lost them. Weeping angels. I have been alone since then.”

            Martha closed her eyes, collecting her thoughts. After a moment, she opened them again, and said, “well not anymore. Get in hear, Mickey will put the tea on, and you can tell me all about this wedding.”

            So here they sat. The topic of the Doctor’s companions, the Ponds, was brief, both happy and sad, before moving to Martha and Mickey’s adventures. Rose kept quiet, not wanting to add any of her own. So few of them were truly happy, and those that were she wanted to keep to herself.

            She took a sip of her tea, looking up to her friends, to find Mickey watching her, concern in his eyes. He moved his head towards the kitchen, a silent request to come talk to him. She smiled lightly, and they stood together, saying something quickly about more tea.

            He wasted no time. “What’s wrong, Rose?”

            She sighed. He had known her too long for her to properly hide anything from him. She turned to the kettle, brewing more tea as she said, “It’s just new, you know? New face, new doctor, new companions, new slate—”

            “Ah, I knew the new slate line would get you! Rose, it’s the Doctor. You’ve already been with him once when he regenerated-why should this be different?”

            “Because that doctor was new. This one, he has already lived with this face. He has made a new life, and I don’t know where to fit into it. What if he has really changed, I know I have.”

            “Then you get to know each other again. He is always gonna change, Rose, you know that. But what’s important doesn’t change. And just a heads up, its not just aliens who change. That is something completely human.”

            “You’re right. I know you’re right. I just… I just need to adjust. I can do that.”

            The kettle began to whistle, and she began to pour as Mickey said, “I know you can, because it’s Rose and the Doctor. The Doctor and Rose and the TARDIS, traveling through time. The way it’s supposed to be.”

            Mickey and Rose both grabbed two cups of tea, and rejoined Martha and the Doctor. Mickey handed his extra to his wife, and Rose handed hers to the Doctor.

            As they sat down, Martha asked, “So, how long are you staying?”

            “Oh, not long at all, I imagine. Much to do, much to see. Adventure, out there, waiting to be adventured!” The youth and unadulterated excitement was a familiar and endearing look on the Doctor, as he became fixated on the stars outside.

            His eyes on the window, the Doctor didn’t see the change in Martha’s face as she said, “So you’re just leaving again. And, what, we won’t hear from you for another decade?”

            “Martha…” Mickey said, trailing off.

            The joy was gone from the Doctor’s face as he turned back to her. Rose could see what would happen next. He would say something defensive and not at all empathetic that would ultimately hurt Martha more. So she chimed in, “don’t worry, I will make sure he doesn’t disappear into the cosmos again. I do have a phone similar to the old one, and I will promise to pick up, in case bowtie over here doesn’t.”

            Rose met the Doctor’s eyes, thanks evident in them.

            “You better. Well,” Martha looked to her husband, “If you make sure to stay in touch, then there is no reason for you to not get back to it. There is a universe to save, after all.”

            The goodbyes were brief. Exchanging numbers, hugs, reassurances from Mickey.

            Soon enough, Rose and the Doctor were back on the TARDIS. He stood slightly behind her as she gaging her reaction to the new control room.

            “So…” he said, after he tolerated a few painstaking moments of silence. He hated silence. “What do you think?”

            Rose couldn’t help but smile at him. Her reaction was obviously important to the Doctor. “I think… I think its brilliant. It’s still the TARDIS, just… new packaging. Doesn’t mean she has changed.”

            The Doctor seemed to pick up on the fact that she wasn’t just talking about the TARDIS.

            “Really?” He said, hopefully. He walked up to her, until they were about a foot apart.

            She grabbed his hand as she said, “Really,” she agreed.

            After a few seconds, she released his hand, saying “well, I guess I should go find my room. If it’s still there.”

            “Oh, it’s still there. The TARDIS holds a soft spot for you, I think.”

            Rose smiled and turned toward the hallway.

            “Wait, Rose, just a second.” He hopped down the stairs, something in his hand.

            “I just… Please…” He couldn’t seem to find the right words, so he just pressed what he had in his hand into her own.

            She opened her palm, to find a familiar key to the TARDIS.

            She looked up to the Doctor, but couldn’t seem to find the words to thank him.

            He had a small smile on his face as he said, “Welcome home, Rose.”