Rose was standing on a beach, between two men who were identical and yet... not. The sky was grey, and a chilly wind wound its way around them. Nearby, her mother stood watching, arms wrapped around herself to ward against the cold.
“I love you,” the second man whispered into her ear, and then she was kissing him, pulling him down by his lapels, lips pressed desperately to his in relief and thanks for the words she’d been waiting so long to hear. He wasn’t the Doctor, not really, and yet that voice, that face… she could almost accept it, almost believe it.
The kiss lasted only a few moments, and yet in those moments, her future was decided. The first man had silently walked away and closed a door. Behind her, she heard the all-too-familiar sound of the TARDIS dematerializing. She whipped around, hands falling from the Metacrisis Doctor’s jacket, eyes wide with shock and betrayal. Mickey had said that this would happen, but she’d sworn he was mistaken. She’d had faith; she’d believed that the Doctor had changed. She’d been wrong.
“Oh no you don’t, you stupid bloody alien,” she growled, her shock turning quickly to anger. Thank god for Mickey, she thought. It was his distrust that would save her. When she got back to her proper universe, she’d have to find him to say thanks. After dealing with the Doctor, that was.
The Metacrisis was looking at her in regret and resignation, but his expression quickly morphed into confusion and concern as she grumbled under her breath and rummaged through her jacket pockets. After a moment, she produced a large, round, yellow button on a string. “Put this on,” she instructed the Metacrisis, shoving it roughly into his hands. “Mum, give me your dimension hopper!” Jackie, who was still hovering silently nearby, handed an identical yellow button over, looking sad but not surprised. She held onto her daughter’s hand briefly.
“I love you sweetheart,” she said on a sigh. “When you find that idiot, give him a smack from me.” She smiled slightly.
“I love you too, Mum,” Rose replied, pulling her mother in for a brief, tight hug, “and trust me, when I find that man I’m going to smack him so hard he regenerates. I don’t care how pretty he was this time around.” Her mother made a sound between a laugh and a sob, wrapping her arms around herself again as if to hold her heart in place, and nodded at her daughter, a few tears escaping from her eyes despite her attempts to stay strong. “Goodbye, my Rose. Stay safe.”
"Goodbye," Rose returned with a sad smile before turning away and back towards the man standing by her side.
The Metacrisis had stood silent during this exchange, turning the dimension hopper in his hands, eyebrows pulled together in concern. He looked up now as Rose turned to him.
“Well? Are you coming or not? If so, put that thing on. The rift will be closed soon, we don’t have time to waste.” Her voice was rough and angry. The Metacrisis grimaced.
“Rose, are you sure this is what you want?” he asked quietly.
“Kind of you to care now, after making the decision without me not two minutes ago,” she scoffed, glaring at him. “You don’t know the whole story, and neither did he. I made my choice years ago, and I’m not about to change it just because he’s got the universe’s most absurd martyr complex.” She shoved her dimension hopper over her head and placed her left hand over the button. Her right hand she reached out to him, raising an eyebrow. With only a moment’s hesitation more, the Metacrisis slipped his own hopper over his head and laced his fingers through hers.
“On the count of three,” Rose directed, meeting his eyes. “One, two…” and before Jackie’s tearfilled eyes, the two blinked out of existence.
They landed roughly on a London street corner, still scattered with debris from the recent Dalek occupation. It was raining lightly. Rose stood up straight and dropped the Metacrisis’ hand, glancing around to get her bearings.
“Where would he go now?” she asked the Metacrisis after a moment. Her tone was businesslike, but edged with anger; her eyes flinty. The Metacrisis stared at his feet and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
“Donna’s,” he said quietly, “he’ll be at Donna’s. She...” he trailed off. Chancing a glance up at her through the drizzle, he saw Rose watching him intently, eyebrow slightly raised again, waiting for him to keep going. He looked back down and grimaced. “The metacrisis, it wasn’t… she can’t… it’ll have been too much for her. I’ll...he’ll have had to wipe her memories. Everything since she met me.”
“What?!” exclaimed Rose, startled.
“She’s got a Time Lord’s consciousness in her head now,” the Metacrisis explained sadly. “Her brain isn’t designed to handle it. She’ll burn.” Rose’s eyes narrowed at the phrasing. It jostled long-hidden memories deep within her subconscious. Swirls of gold dust, and a fire behind her eyes. You looked into the Time Vortex, Rose. Nobody is supposed to see that...you’ve got the entire Vortex running through your head… you’re gonna burn!
“I am the Bad Wolf,” she murmured. The Metacrisis’ eyes shot up to her face.
“Bad Wolf,” she repeated, wiping damp hair off her forehead. “I became the Bad Wolf. I killed the Daleks. The Vortex was inside of me, and I was gonna burn." She gazed off into the distance for a moment, remembering. "But I didn’t. You took it out. You kissed me, and you took the Vortex, and you saved me, and you died.”
“You aren’t supposed to remember that,” the Metacrisis responded dazedly. “Those memories were gone. Locked.”
“Like Donna’s will be?” He dropped his gaze.
“So why could you save me, but not her? What’s one little Time Lord in comparison to the entire Time Vortex? She saved the world, just like me. So why won’t you save her?” Her voice was disbelieving; disapproving.
“I AM saving her! We are!” he shot back. “She can’t remember us! It’s not safe!”
“That’s bollocks and you know it! I lost minutes, not years, because you took the Vortex out of me. You DIED to save me. Do you seriously think she’s worth any less?” The volume of her voice had risen as the rainfall increased steadily from a drizzle to a downpour. The Metacrisis scrubbed a hand down his face, looking agonized.
“I'll...he'll... he'll die.” he whispered, sounding broken and ashamed, “he'll die, and he's been this man for such a short time and he isn't ready. We don’t want to go.” He looked up at her, eyes full of tears beneath his now sodden bangs, begging her to understand.
“Tough.” Rose crossed her arms. “You have... he has... more lives to live. She doesn’t. You don’t get to wipe the best years of her life from existence because you’re scared, or because you think you deserve to be alone. It’s not your choice to make. Now get us to Donna’s, and figure out how to fix this. She’s your best mate. She saved you. You owe her this.” He stared at her in silence for five seconds… ten... finally, the Metacrisis shoved his fists into his pants pockets and nodded. Turning on his heel, he began to trudge through the deluge toward the Noble residence. Rose followed silently, and together they disappeared into the downpour.
On their way, eventually, they talked.
Dripping wet, the Doctor stared at the now closed front door of the Noble residence, where he had just left behind the best friend he’d had in centuries, with absolutely no memories of who he was or their time together. He turned slowly and walked away, toward the TARDIS. The thought of the empty time ship caused his hearts to clench painfully. Just this morning, it had been full of life… the family he had built for himself over the past few years. The army, Davros had called them. All of those lives warped by him; by his incessant need to save them. In the end, all he ever did was destroy. It was better that they had left him behind. Maybe without him, they could find peace.
Pushing the air from his lungs in a tired sigh, he slipped his key into the TARDIS’ door and pushed it open. He slid inside and turned to close the familiar blue door behind himself. Before he could, however, it pushed back open with a bang, wood bouncing off the coral of the console room’s wall. The Doctor’s eyes widened in shock as he took in the furious face of a dripping wet blonde who he thought he was destined never to see again. Her eyes blazed. Her fists were clenched. The Doctor couldn’t take his eyes off of her.
“You and I,” she seethed, fury radiating from her, “are gonna be having some words.” Involuntarily, he backed away from the livid young woman. She pushed through the door, dripping onto the grating, and continuing her tirade: “Very, VERY soon. But first, you and HIM are gonna go save Donna.” Her words were accompanied by a thrust of her thumb back over her shoulder, causing the Doctor to finally rip his eyes from hers. Looking over her right shoulder, he saw a very chagrined, thoroughly chastised-looking Metacrisis standing awkwardly in the rain, just outside the door. Their eyes met, and the Metacrisis grimaced at him.
“We need to talk.”
The three of them sat around the kitchen table in the galley an hour later, half empty cups of tea growing cold in front of them. Rose’s arms were once again crossed as she leaned back in her chair, staring slightly over the heads of the two men, jaw clenched. The Doctor and the Metacrisis sat facing each other, both looking stubborn and furious.
“It will KILL you!” the Doctor shouted at his double, hands pulling desperately at his hair. “Don’t you understand that?! You’re not a Time Lord anymore, not fully. If you take that part of her back, you’ll die!”
“So what?!” the Metacrisis shot at him. “I’ve been alive less than 24 hours! I’m NOT EVEN A WHOLE PERSON. I’m like a PHOTOCOPY of you. And a bad one, at that.” He grimaced at how his single heart had sped up as he yelled. He took a deep breath. “Look, I barely have any experiences of my own to speak of, and anyway, you thought I was too dangerous to be kept around to begin with,” he sighed, his voice calmer. “You should be happy about this.” The Doctor stared at him in disbelief.
“Happy?” he spit. “HAPPY?! I left you in another universe to spend your lovely, simple, human life with the woman we love and you dragged her back across dimensions to commit suicide and you thought I’d be HAPPY?!”
“Oi!” Rose barked, eyes snapping back to the two Doctors. “Seriously?! First off, what, NOW you love me? Now, after abandoning me on another world without so much as a goodbye, after I spent three years fighting to get back to you? I don’t BLOODY well think so. And secondly, DRAGGED ME BACK?! You’ve got to be FUCKING kidding me. I make my own choices, you condescending git. AND FINALLY, a ‘lovely, simple, human life’? Your arrogance is ASTOUNDING. You have NO IDEA what my life has been since I got stuck in Pete’s World, and you have no idea what I want now. You made that choice without so much as ASKING me what I wanted, or why. Do you have ANY idea what you almost damned me to? Any idea at all?” as her rant progressed, Rose’s voice began to thicken with tears. She rolled her eyes back, trying to keep them from spilling down her face. The Doctor looked at her in shock and concern.
“Besides,” the Metacrisis interrupted, “it’s not suicide. You’ll keep on living, just as you always have. As you were so quick to point out at Bad Wolf Bay, I’m you. We’re the same person. We can save Donna, and we can stay us, and we can keep Rose. This is for the best.” Rose snorted at the phrase “keep Rose.” Although she’d been very sure this morning that she wanted to be with this man forever, she wasn’t feeling particularly Happily Ever After at the moment. The Doctor looked pained.
“But your lifespans,” he started,
“Are something the two of you will need to discuss later,” the Metacrisis finished for him. “Rose and I talked on our way over here, and you’ve got some serious catching up to do. But if you really don’t want me to sacrifice myself for Donna -- which, by the way, I’m more than willing to do, now that I’ve had some time to consider our options -- you could always do it yourself. Sure, you’d have to regenerate, but we’ve done it before. We’ll manage.” The Metacrisis raised an eyebrow and the Doctor dropped his gaze in defeat. They both knew he wasn’t ready to give up this visage just yet. He dared a side glance at Rose, suddenly wondering about the ominous ‘discuss later’ his double had so casually thrown at him, but Rose was now staring at the wall, determinedly avoiding either man’s gaze.
“Fine,” the Doctor spit, after an uncomfortable silence. “Save her. Save Donna. Just…” he closed his eyes momentarily, then looked up and met his double’s gaze. “Just go now, before I can change my mind. Tell her granddad send her back to the TARDIS when she wakes up, and I’ll explain.” The Metacrisis nodded soberly and stood up. He rested his hand briefly on Rose’s shoulder. Without looking up, she covered it with her own, grasping it tightly as she closed her eyes and pressed her lips together, silencing her sobs as tears dripped down her cheeks. She released him, and he walked out of the galley and toward the console without looking back. Rose’s head dropped into her hands and she let out a choked sob, slumping forward, her elbows on the table. The Doctor reached out for her.
“Rose,” he whispered, but she flinched back from his touch.
“Don’t.” she rasped. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she pushed back from the table and exited the room.