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31 March 2009 @ 09:51 pm
out of sequence [dw - Romana/Rose]  
Title: out of sequence
Fandom: Doctor Who
Pairing: Romana II/Rose Tyler
Word Count: 3100
Rating: PG/PG-13
Summary: Rose isn’t ready to settle down just yet. Romana fails in her first attempt to return to N-Space. Mostly.
Notes: I’m playing with the Bad Wolf theme a bit, because it’s really kind of interesting, and seems to grab the attention of Time Lords (all two of them, aha). Spoilers for Journey’s End and Warrior’s Gate. Some timey-wimeyness to try to get it to work at all canonically. Oh, and hints of Doctor/Rose, because there was absolutely no way around it.



They both know too well that forever is a fallacy.

* * *

200,000 years into the future and a universe away, Rose Tyler stands at the edge of Apocalypse and the universe surges through her. She is fire and ice in a way that the Doctor will never be – nothing of humanity left, nothing left but humanity – her mind adrift within the thoughts of the last TARDIS in existence and reality at her command. That power has left her, but the instant is and has always been etched into the stonework of eternity, a gift and a burden and a blessing and a curse.

Six weeks ago, she is standing upon the beach of the bay that bears her name (their name, for, in a manner of speaking, Rose is still the TARDIS and the TARDIS is still Rose, and perhaps that is the hardest separation of them all), and he stays but he leaves, and she knows even then that it will never be enough.

Five months ago, she walks from universe to universe, crossing dimensions as casually as crossing the street, engulfed by the certainty that is her birthright.

Tonight, however, she stares through the windows at a world that is not hers, a world that is still strange and yet unbearably mundane. She ignores the telly playing in the next room over and the silence where the Doctor’s voice should be – he becomes less than the Doctor every day, humanity and domesticity superseding everything he once was – and wonders if she too has the strength to leave.

If she dreams when she sleeps, she doesn’t remember.

* * *

“This shouldn’t be happening,” Romana reasons. “This can’t be happening.”

They stand in the centre of a white void, an ever-expanding stretch of nothingness. The ruins of a castle are crumbling behind them – the gateway to universes that are quickly unravelling – and the meaning is clear. The only question is how.

“You will leave us,” Biroc says. There is no doubt in his voice.

Romana smiles, a little bit sadly, and nods. She would have expected the Time Lords to handle such an eventuality, and she can’t imagine why they haven’t. In their absence, however, the responsibility falls to her. “I must.”

“We shall forget neither you nor your people,” he promises. “Remember us.”

“Of course.”

Biroc sighs – a soft shadow of a roar that would have been disturbing had Romana not known him so well. “Your path may wander far and wide, but it will bring you where you need to be. In time. We will not meet again, Romana.”

She reaches out to touch him but her hand falls away at the last moment.

“Thank you, Biroc. For everything.”

* * *

The first time they meet it is, incidentally, raining.

Rose is rushing down the street when she quite literally runs into her. A stranger in this strange reality, staring up into the rain at the buildings and the zeppelins – at the world itself – with such a familiar mix of perplexity and fascination on her face that for a single moment, Rose forgets that she has some place to be. She forgets that her father has finally promised to put some more funding into interdimensional travel. She forgets how desperate she is to return home.

(Later she’ll decide that she should have known even then – that the oddness of her manner and the cut of her clothing should have given it away.)

The stranger regains her balance quickly enough to keep them both from falling. There’s strength in her grip, the kind that Rose has come to associate with only one person. She stares at Rose for an instant, a strange, stunned sense of recognition in her eyes, but then she looks away and the moment ends. That should mean something, Rose thinks, but her mind is spinning too wildly to determine what.

The woman suddenly grins at her. “What a lovely day for tennis,” she comments brightly, brushing damp hair out of her face. “Tell me… this is Earth, isn’t it?”

Rose doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t even stare. She simply grins, because she misses the strangeness of the universe, and sometimes she still forgets exactly how much. “Yeah…” she finally replies. “Yeah. Well, sort of.”

The other woman shakes her head. “That can’t be,” she argues, half to herself, as she glances around the London skyline, her lips pursed. “This technology is far too advanced for a class five civilisation. There must be some sort of…” She breaks off and frowns at Rose. “Sort of, you said?”

Rose shrugs. “Alternate dimensions,” she explains. “This is Earth, but isn’t mine. Not really.” And that truth still stings, often enough. It still feels horribly but inexplicably wrong, and Rose can’t understand why none of the others notice.

“Are you sure?” the woman asks. She digs into a pocket and drags out a large instrument that couldn’t have possibly fit within. Spinning in a slow circle, her frown deepening with each step, she fiddles with its controls. “This should be impossible,” she insists. “The coordinates are positive again, but…” She shakes her head and smiles somewhat wistfully at Rose. “I seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

“Tell me about it,” Rose laughs.

Puzzlement. “I believe I just did.”

“No, I…” Rose sighs. Despite the oddness, she finds herself wishing that every day could be like this. “Never mind.”

“All right,” the other woman replies agreeably and then falls silent. There is nothing awkward in her silence, nothing uncomfortable. It is simply the stillness of someone who understands time too well to see the need to fill it unnecessarily.

“I’m Romanadvoratrelundar, by the way,” she finally introduces herself, laughing at the expression that passes across Rose’s face. “Don’t worry, you’re welcome to call me Romana.” She offers her hand in greeting.

Rose accepts it. “Rose Tyler.”

Romana smiles. “Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Confused and stricken by a powerful sense of déjà vu, Rose blinks. “What?” she starts to ask, but by the time she has opened her eyes, she is already alone.

* * *

The second time they meet is technically also the first time they meet, because Romana is a time traveller and Rose… well, Rose isn’t quite sure what she is anymore.

Logistically, it should have been impossible. There are a million, million different dimensions, each separated by the simplest of choices, and the paths between them are innumerable. But they meet all the same: two strangers trying to return home but doomed to arrive ever too early, ever too late. There, amidst the endless expanse of white nothingness, the realm between realms, Rose seeks one Time Lord and happens across another.

“I didn’t realise interdimensional travel had become so popular,” Romana comments lightly, though a studied guardedness settles in her eyes as she watches Rose. Several questions linger in that gaze – a who are you, a what are you, the silent shout of heart of the TARDIS – and Rose can’t help but feel defensive.

“Look, I don’t know what you’re playing at, but…”

“Oh, I see,” Romana interrupts, her eyes fixed upon the disk around Rose’s neck. “The most basic of interdimensional transportation devices. A sort of… backdoor, I should think, created by those without a complete understanding of the Time Vortex.” She reaches out to examine it before Rose can think to stop her. “Or even a rudimentary understanding,” she amends her judgment. “There. That should make it somewhat less volatile. You’re lucky I don’t care much for non-interference policies. What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” Rose retorts, finding herself incomprehensibly unwilling to offer her name. Names have power, especially in places such as this where reality seems almost optional.

Romana glances up from the disk she’s still studying, but whatever response she would have given is lost as Rose falls back into her own world (not her world at all). Ghost fingers are still pressed up against the device, but for a moment, all she can think of is that she has failed yet again to find her way home.

She doesn’t remember until later that she has met Romana before.

* * *

It is only after the universe has nearly perished that they meet a third time, trapped together on the wrong side of the wall between realities.

Rose isn’t sure she could remember when she started coming to this particular bar. It’s easier than returning to a home that never truly felt like hers, even before she was abandoned for a second time. She doesn’t come to drink. Not really. Glancing into the lives of strangers, wondering how many are truly as they seem, offers her more of an escape than alcohol ever could.

(“I should’ve guessed as much,” her mother had said. “I should’ve known you’d never be happy with a normal life, even if he were willing to live it with you. Well, he’s gone now. Both of him. And you have no one to blame but yourself.”

Rose hadn’t replied, because the truth was more complicated than she could put into words. She didn’t explain that it was her own choice, her own decision to part for that final time. She couldn’t accept a replacement Doctor any more than she could accept a replacement world, and being left with both felt like the greatest betrayal imaginable.)


A tap on her shoulder draws her out of the memory, and a voice sounds out from beside her. “Do you mind if I sit here?”

Rose doesn’t say anything at first. She just stares in silence at the blonde woman in the loose red dress and wonders if this – this one instant, this meeting forever woven into the fabric of time – is the real reason she has been coming to this bar. The entire Vortex once spun through her head; Rose knows that such things are possible. She nods faintly, chewing on her lip, and opens her mouth, uncertain of what words will emerge.

“You’re not going to disappear on me this time.” It isn’t a request.

“It was only fair,” Romana replies, smiling. Her grin fades as she realises how serious Rose’s statement is. “Oh, all right. I promise.”

“Good.”

Romana clasps her hands together and thoughtfully stares at them. “It isn’t as if I have anywhere to go,” she finally points out. “The walls have closed again, and…” She shakes her head and laughs softly. The truth of their situation doesn’t seem to perturb her. “It was a silly mistake, really. Perhaps I’m still not ready to go home.”

“Well, I am,” Rose murmurs bitterly. “I’d give the world to… well, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

She knows she has nothing to go back to now, not when he secretly wanted a normal life and she desired anything but. Miscommunication. She can’t even remember when they began to talk past each other – when they became too caught up in the adventure to pay attention.

“If you want to talk about it, I’d be willing to listen,” Romana offers quietly.

“Thanks, but…” Rose expects to turn her down. She expects to be unwilling to ever speak about it, and so when she says, “Maybe later,” she is more surprised than Romana.

“As you like. I have all the time in the universe,” Romana laughs, but Rose can tell that it isn’t quite a joke. Three meetings – none by chance, none by anything else – have convinced her that not all wonder has gone out of the universe, that perhaps a little still remains to be uncovered.

“Do you have a place to stay?” She doesn’t know why she asks. Instinct, perhaps.

“Technically… no. Not really.”

“Well, you’re welcome to stay with me. If you’d like, that is,” Rose offers, as impulsively as once, a lifetime ago, she chose to accept another stranger’s invitation.

Romana smiles, and that, Rose decides, is answer enough.

* * *

She isn’t sure why she stays.

Romana is unaccustomed to remaining in one place for very long. Even amongst the Tharils, she spent much of her time travelling. But now…

Rose is unlike any human she has ever before met. Instinct tells her that something far more profound is at work here. Something powerful, untempered, uncontrolled and uncontrollable – too raw to be a Guardian, too alive to be an Eternal – that seems to call to Romana as strongly as the promise of freedom once did.

And so she stays. Time Lord instinct, she’s tempted to claim, but she knows that’s only part of it, and she refuses to use it as an excuse.

* * *

“How do you call a female Time Lord?” Rose finally asks.

(In her head, it sounds somewhat more tactful than “Aren’t the lot of you supposed to be dead?”)

They’re eating breakfast in her parents’ house, ignoring (or oblivious to, in Romana’s case) her mother’s curious glances in their direction. Jackie Tyler has been asking leading questions all week, concerned by her daughter’s peculiar new friend. She suspects more than there is – though how much more, Rose isn’t always sure, because sometimes Romana’s eccentricities are so familiar that it’s easy to fall back into the old patterns.

Romana glances up from the newspaper she’s pretending to be reading, but doesn’t so much as blink. “A Time Lady, usually,” she answers, with a smile that’s somehow also a shrug. There’s a hint of something in her eyes – curiosity, perhaps, but a version that’s stronger and stranger than the human variety – and for a moment Rose can’t bring herself to look away.

But then that something vanishes as if it never were, and suddenly Rose finds the need to explain. “I once travelled with someone, called himself the—”

“I should have guessed as much,” Romana laughs, finally putting down the newspaper. “He’s rather fond of brilliant young women, isn’t he?” she points out, a conspiratorial note in her voice, and Rose wonders if this is the way all Time Lords flirt.

Rose tries to smile in response, but it comes out broken, twisted, wrong.

“Ah,” Romana breathes. She’s silent for a long moment, and then she sighs. “A simple dialogue, a sympathetic outlet can be psychologically beneficial. Surprisingly so.” At Rose’s blank stare, she smiles and asks, “Would you like to talk about it yet?”

“No,” Rose mutters. “I wouldn’t.” She pushes herself to her feet and wanders around the room, feeling Romana’s eyes upon her with every step. “I thought… I don’t know,” she confesses anyway. “I thought it was what I wanted. One life to live, you know?”

“Not really,” Romana admits quietly.

“Right,” Rose laughs. “Of course not. Time Lord and all.”

Romana shrugs but doesn’t deny it. She stands up, wanders over to the window, and thoughtfully glances out. It feels as if she should be humming softly to herself, but she makes no sound at all. In the silence that follows, Rose quietly says, “I wanted to travel forever.”

“So did I.” Romana smiles. There’s no shadow in that smile, no secret pain large enough to fill up galaxies. There’s delight, passion, and simple understanding. Rose finds it all very refreshing. “But one cannot simply run forever. There comes a time when one must find a place worth standing or…” She shrugs slightly and leans back in her chair. Beyond them both, clouds shift against the sky, and for an instant the shadows deepen…

Rose knows in that moment that Romana is already dead. She doesn’t understand how or why – she gazed into the heart of the TARDIS but will never remember – but she instinctively knows that. in a way, this is all still long ago. This woman is (will be, has always been) lying dead amongst the ruins of a broken city, her people fallen and her last hope too terrible to comprehend.

(My world is gone, he had said, and the meaning of that has never before been so clear.)

Oh, but I go for the doomed ones, don’t I? The thought runs through her mind as she reaches out to take hold of Romana’s shoulder. It’s sturdy but slender beneath her fingers, and she imagines she can feel two hearts beating, testament to a dead race. I wonder what it would be like, she thinks, and I’ve snogged a Time Lord before, but…

“Are you going to kiss me?” Romana asks, a touch more curious than would be proper.

“I… yeah.” It’s not rebound. Not really. At least, not in any way that matters, because Rose knows she could wander the universe with Romana and never grow tired. She’s not the Doctor – she’s younger, and it shows. Younger but far more grounded, and Rose thinks that maybe she won’t make the same mistakes this time. “Yeah, I think I am.”

Rose Tyler has touched time itself before; to kiss a Time Lord is not the same, but it’s the closest thing imaginable. The world doesn’t stop – it doesn’t even pause – but for a single moment she imagines she can feel it spinning beneath her. Romana hesitates, uncertain of whether to push forward or pull back, and Rose can nearly sense Romana’s mind brushing up against her own. And then she can almost remember everything, and that alone is enough to shatter the moment.

“We should leave,” Rose suddenly decides, pulling away. She’s tried to cling to impossible dreams before and knows how dangerous it can be. But Rose also knows what is meant to happen next – the Time War has always been my past, present, and future – and she’ll postpone that as long as she can.

“Excuse me?” Romana blinks at her.

“I mean… we’ve got a whole alternate universe to explore,” Rose grins much too widely. “How about it?”

“I think…” Romana breaks off thoughtfully and turns away from the window. “I’ve never had a companion before,” she murmurs. She crosses the room and grabs her coat, pulls it around her shoulders, and reaches for the door. “Well, are you coming or not?”

Rose laughs. “Always.”

* * *

The walk ends at the end of a sunlit alleyway. It’s just beginning to rain again, but Rose barely notices.

“You…” she breaks off and begins to laugh, because this really is too much. “Blimey. You’re telling me you travel through time and space in a telephone box?”

Romana smiles. “A personal favourite,” she explains, stroking the side of the door. “I once had a friend who… well, it doesn’t matter anymore, does it?”

No, Rose decides. It really doesn’t.

finis
 
 
 
The Island of the Fay: [dw] we could be happyatraphoenix on April 2nd, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. LJ always does that to me as well.