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New Fic! The Guardians of Time (1/12)

AUTHOR: sensiblecat

ILLUSTRATION by whowhore

SERIES: AU, set immediately after DW S2, some refs to TW S1 and sideways glances at DW S3.

CHARACTERS: Ten/Rose, Jack, Gwen, Ianto, the Tyler clan and Martha, but not as we know her. And a rather significant OC.

DISCLAIMER: This is very much a thought-experiment based on the characters and format owned by the BBC. No plagiarism or personal profit is intended.

RATING: This chapter G. Some mild smut later.

Most of my longer stories start with the question "What if?" Boxing Day - what if he'd said sorry to Harriet Jones? "Second Chances" - what if Jack had been in the Lever Room, and so on.

A while back I started a sequel to Second Chances, called "The Guardians of Time". It stalled halfway through and I went on to do other things like the Doctor's Diary instead. It's basically a story about Rose and the Doctor having that One Adventure - we all know which one - and whether it could work. Particularly if Gallifrey got in the way.

One of the more interesting comments I've heard people make on S3 was that Martha confronted the Gallifrey angst, and Rose didn't. I wanted to look at that a bit more closely, and being me, the story came out with a light touch and the odd tear along the way.

Some of you may remember the first few chapters from Time and Chips. I've reworked them a bit, just lightening the tone, and now I have Saturday nights free again, I plan to finish the job.

So here, without further, ado, is the first part of "The Guardians of Time". Enjoy. If you haven't read "Second Chances", it might help you find your bearings to skim the final chapter. Basically, not so much a Doomsday-fixit as an AU Doomsday-didn't-happen. Jackie and Mickey ended up in the parallel world. Rose didn't. And Jack is very much around.

“What will you say to her,” she asked, “when she asks you what it was like?”

“What what was like?”

“Oh, come on. You know.”


Home, where my thoughts escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.

PAUL SIMON, 1966

The Doctor rarely bothered wearing a watch. Time did not control him; he controlled it. However, if he had been wearing a watch, right now he would have been looking at it impatiently. He was trapped in an apparently stationery queue at Ikea Galactis (the flagship branch of the Erisian Inner Asteroidal Colonies ring) in 2342, and it beggared belief that after all these centuries, Ikea hadn’t evolved beyond an automated checkout system capable of collapsing under the stress of a Colonial Founders Day supersale.

He supposed that was humans for you. Shopping as a leisure pursuit, fun for all the family. There were some things about the human race he would never understand, and this was one of them. The kind of shopping he enjoyed involved direct contact with the vendor, preferably with an element of double-bluff and haggling, market stalls and rummaging, the more obscure, the better. He did not care for vast warehouses, eye-poppingly strong cheap Scandinavian coffee and layouts designed to make it impossible to leave without making a purchase or sixteen.

So, what was he doing here? Well, the TARDIS was in the farthermost corner of the car park, healing from a minor but irritating brush with a stray meteorite (her force field had malfunctioned whilst he was in the shower, washing the dust of Plutonian diplomatic negotiations out of his hair). Plus, he had just remembered that very soon he would be the owner of a house, and houses on 21st Century Earth didn’t grow their own furnishings. So, a little shopping seemed to be in order.

Most of the furnishings would be provided by Jack, Gwen and Ianto, who would all be living there at various times. And Rose, who would be living there, theoretically at least, all the time. Some, though, were his own responsibility. He didn’t always remember his responsibilities in time; for example, he had forgotten, until it was too late, to remind his bride that when a Time Lord revealed his name, it switched the contraceptive hormones in his bloodstream off.

She’d been quite good about it really. Once she’d finished crying and shouting at him. And, as soon as he heard the good news, Jack had immediately implemented Operation Stork. Its mission, simply, was to make sure that this kid had the nearest possible thing to a normal, happy childhood. That meant a house, since time travel was not child-friendly, and he’d been sort of looking for a place in the country anyway. A place where Ianto and Gwen, to name but two, visiting alternate weekends, would pass with relatively little comment. Where people would assume that a police box in the corner in the garden was just a rather quirky garden ornament.

They settled on Pembrokeshire. Miles away from anywhere, but it felt right. And the miles only counted by road, anyway. Not by TARDIS, or the teleporter Jack liked to assume the Doctor didn’t know he had.

So Pembrokeshire it was. Wild sea-arched beaches. Crashing waves. Little white cottages. More natural beauty than any place had any right to have, and a perpetual, brooding sense of Celtic history. A place where the Seal of Rassilon on a plaque by the front door would blend right in. It had been carved slightly inaccurately, but it wasn’t as if Romana was likely to come wandering down the lane.

Or anyone else. The place was 45 minutes drive from the nearest supermarket.

Which, right at this moment, seemed like a real advantage to the Doctor.

The line in front of him still hadn’t moved. He looked again at the pile of boxes in his shopping cart, and remembered too late that there was no point in buying a cot with an interplanetary circadian rhythm setting for a baby who’d only be sleeping in it on Earth. Which reminded him, he really hoped the DNA identification system on the tills hadn’t crashed as well, because he wasn’t in the mood for one of those “Just the Doctor” conversations.

Maybe John Smith would work.

He pulled his Superphone out and noticed with pleasure that Rose had texted him with the co-ordinates of tonight’s picnic spot. They’d developed a little routine, since she’d had to stop travelling in the TARDIS. Not so much, “Call me if you’ll be late,” but more, “Give me a time to aim at. Well, within a year or two.” Mostly it worked, once he’d got his head around the idea of having a routine in the first place. Or for that matter, a wife. A sort of wife. Captain Jack had married them on board the TARDIS, which was undeniably a ship. It was as legal as anything else on Earth would have been. Anyway, he and Rose rather liked the idea of it being semi-official.

He knew that offering to marry her at all had been unnecessary; the simple question, “Would you like to sort of share the rest of your life with me?” had been sufficient. However, the sight of her in that empty flat on the Powell Estate, the only home she’d known, with her mum and Mickey forever lost to her, had been enough to jolt him into a commitment. He’d have even gone along with the long white dress thing if she’d wanted it, but he was very glad she hadn’t.

After all, as he’d said at the time, he’d look pretty silly in a long white dress.

Their vows had been simple. He had promised her a hand to hold, and she had promised him a home. He’d meant to say more, but that had choked him up so completely when he heard it that they’d settled on a big, teary hug and a kiss. Then Jack had said,

“This is the moment when everything changes. Better get ready.”

He was quite right, of course.

***********


It tore her apart when he went away, and yet she knew he had to. He was still the last of the Time Lords, so far, and the universe was full of work that he alone could do. Besides, he’d go crazy if he couldn’t travel, and so would every one around him.

It had been Jack’s idea to send him off to deal with a diplomatic incident in the Kuiper Belt. The outer planetoids were a factional powder keg, poised between breaking historical links with the Solar System as a protest to the demotion of Pluto, and facing a future of sporadic interplanetary warfare that the Doctor was eager to avoid but not allowed to tell them about.

A Time Lord was over-qualified for the job, and diplomacy wasn’t his strongest skill in any case, but they were all desperate to get him out of the way while the house-move was going on. Because he wasn’t just over-qualified; he was under-employed as well. He didn’t really want to go travelling without Rose, but there were far too many hazards out there for a pregnant woman. Space was hardly a low-risk environment, and the TARDIS was held together by little more than duct tape and the Doctor’s ingenuity. Which was considerable, but both of them had acknowledged there was a potential problem when Rose had almost gone into labour after being blown across the control room once too often.

Jack had pulled out every stop to find something useful for the Doctor to do. But he wasn’t the world’s most employable character. Teamwork was a concept he still struggled to get his head around. And he tended to either rub people up the wrong way, or charm them so completely that they let him get away with murder. Sometimes, literally. It took a lot of sorting out. Take the Rachnoss, for example. Jack had asked him to flush the Empress out, not drain the bloody Thames. The population of London would be on a hosepipe ban for years to come.

And if the Board found out who’d been working for Torchwood, albeit unofficially, they’d have his ass.

So the Doctor had become a peace envoy. It worked for ex-Prime Ministers. Well, the ones that didn’t die. And, Jack figured, once he found out how difficult it was to get a multi-species coalition agreeing around a table, even a three-dimensional one, he might quit being so damn sanctimonious about equal rights for Weevils.

Rose saw Jack’s point of view. At the very least, it would stop Jack warbling “How do you solve a problem like the Doctor?” around the house in his camper moments.

She knew that he missed her, but also she knew how much it meant to him to have a home and someone to return to. She owed that to him, and gave it gladly. And while he was gone, she kept busy. Studying for her ‘A’ levels, working part-time at Torchwood, and house-hunting with Gwen and Jack. It wasn’t exactly happiness, but it could have been very much worse.

Happiness was when the key around her neck began to glow. She might be working at her desk, and look up to see the TARDIS taking shape in the middle of the Hub. Or doing day-release at college, wanting to run out of the lecture room right there and then, and not risk wasting a single, precious moment of their time together. But best of all were the evenings like this, when she sat quietly on a clifftop, lost in her thoughts in the fading light, watching a deep orange sun slide down into the sea. She’d never realised Wales could be so beautiful before.

She was there right now, this beautiful, important summer evening, with a picnic laid out on the grass beside her. The simple, slightly common things he liked – pork pie and piccalilli, celery and Pringles, grapes and a punnet of strawberries. She was starving and hoped that he wouldn’t be late. She kept looking at the bottle of white wine she’d hidden in the shade, but she knew she’d be in trouble if he turned up and found her halfway through it. No booze allowed these days. She poured herself an apple juice instead, and she’d just started nibbling at the fruit when the TARDIS blinked into solidity about ten yards behind her. This was their favourite parking spot; they’d fallen in love with the view of the coast the first time they’d come to look at the house.

It was hard for her to get up now, so she stuck out her arms and pressed her hands into the ground, like flippers, as she twisted round to look. He would tell her she looked like a seal. He was still rude. Still everything, in fact. Once you allowed for him changing his body, he was remarkably consistent.

The door opened and there he was, same as ever, huge smile on his face, hair all over the place and the laces on one of his Chucks undone. She guessed that as soon as he’d got back to the TARDIS he’d thrown off the bright blue suit she’d never quite liked and changed into the old brown pinstripe with relief. He was wearing it with a T-shirt, which was happening more often these days. Sometimes, if it was really warm, he even took the jacket off.

It had taken her a while to realise why his dress code had begun to lighten up. It was because, maybe for the first time in hundreds of years, he had somewhere he thought of as home. Once, she’d said, “Don’t you feel that way about the TARDIS?” and his reply had spoken volumes.

“The trouble with having a mobile home, is that you can’t go home,” he’d said.

“Anyway,” she’d agreed, “she’s not really a thing, like a caravan or something. She’s more like a person.”

“I don’t see why a person can’t be home, do you?” he asked.

He’s saved us all, she thought, every person on this planet, more times than even I can count – and most people don’t know that he’s saved them even once, and that’s the way he’d want it. But I saved him. And that’s a little bit brilliant, isn’t it?

“Well, aren’t you going to jump up and run into my arms, then?” he asked, pretending to be peeved.

“You must be joking,” Rose replied. “Have you seen the size of me?”

“Oh, come here!” He ran across the scrubby grass towards her and reached down to heave her to her feet, an operation that seemed to take more strength than he’d anticipated. “Now that wasn’t very bright,” he scolded. “If I hadn’t come along just when I did, you’d have had to crawl home on your hands and knees. Why aren’t Gwen and Jack looking after you?”

“They’ve gone out for something to eat. They’ve been unpacking all day.”

His hand came up and bashed his forehead, in wide-eyed dismay. “It’s today. I forgot! Oh, I’m sorry. So very, very sorry. But – “ His smile returned instantly. “On the way back home from Jupiter I did nip into Ikea Galactis and bought some stuff. I hope you like it.”

“You forgot that we’ve just bought a house?” Rose exclaimed.

He gulped down a piece of pork pie in two bites, and said through a shower of crumbs, “I didn’t exactly forget, I just didn’t check the dates, the TARDIS got into a meteorite storm  while I was in the shower, and the invasion business in the Kuiper Belt took ages to get sorted out. I have to say, they are mega pissed off about Pluto being demoted, you have no idea how much bad feeling it’s caused. How is everything, anyway?”

“Pretty chaotic. Haven’t got the beds made up yet. Anyway, now you’re back we can sleep in the TARDIS. Are you coming up to see the house?”

“I suppose I should do really. Not that houses have ever been my sort of thing. I mean, me living in a house. With carpets and doors.”

“And a baby,” Rose reminded him.

“Yes. A baby,” he repeated, as if he still couldn’t quite take it in. Rose thought that was wearing a bit thin now, he’d had nearly five months to get used to it. But then, time was never straightforward to him. “I do miss you,” he sighed. “The TARDIS seems so empty when I’m on my own.”

“We’ve been through this a hundred times,” said Rose. “Time travel’s bad for kids. Ruins their physical development. And besides, how could I run away from anything, the size I am?”

“She’s getting to be a big girl, isn’t she?” He pulled her upright, and shoved a stick of celery in his top pocket.  “Come on, Jemima Puddleduck. Let’s take a look at this house, then.”

“You can still get thumped, you know,” warned Rose.

 *******

“So when are you off again?”

It never got any easier to ask. It had been incredibly hard that Christmas Eve when the ash was falling down like snow. Pretending it wasn’t important really. Oh, I thought you might not want to come any more. Because I’d changed.

“I’m not,” he said. “I’m staying.”

“What?” She wasn’t sure she’d heard him right.

“I’m staying here. How much clearer does it have to be?”

“But what about all the stuff you have to do?”

“The stuff I have to do is here.” They were sitting outside the TARDIS on the cliff top, sharing the strawberries and watching the sun go down. His coat was spread out on the grass underneath them, just like the day when they went to New Earth.

“It’s going to be an adventure,” he went on. “The biggest adventure I’ve ever had. I don’t want to miss it. Besides, it’s my job. It’s not Jack and Gwen’s. Not Torchwood’s. Mine.”

“You’ll have to do something,” she said.

“Oh, there’ll be loads of stuff to do,” he answered. “Taking your bloods every day, fixing the house up, getting you through your A Levels.” The bounce went out of his voice for a moment, and he put his arm around her shoulders. “A lot of things could still go wrong,” he said. “I’m staying to make sure they don’t.”

He was right, of course, and sometimes, when she thought about it, she was scared. Even if this was a completely normal pregnancy, she would be. As it was, most bets were off. She didn’t have anyone to ask what was going to happen next, or whether any particular development was worrying. They were alone. She’d never have asked him to stay around, but she was very relieved that he’d chosen to do it.

And that he hadn’t just said, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” He would have done that, once. He’d have lied to protect her, pretended he knew everything. She’d so much rather know the truth. As long as he was here, they’d face it.

But, still, the Doctor, stuck on the slow path, here with her on Earth…….she couldn’t help wondering how it would work out. He’d been stuck on Earth for years before, and hadn’t found it easy.

Uncharted territory, and for once there was no exit route.

“Well, you must have been worried,” he said. “Wondering what I was up to, whether I’d get back okay. It’s not getting any easier, keeping the TARDIS ticking over. Wasn’t such a problem, when there only were the two of us, but now…….” His voice trailed off.

Rose turned and looked at him. Out into the unknown on a wing and a prayer, improvising his way out of trouble, being a bit of a space-Womble really, making good use of the stuff that other people would have left behind. All that had been his stock-in-trade. It showed. Not that he couldn’t look after himself, but he didn’t do it elegantly. Bohemian, that was it. It was one of the things about him that she loved. That, and the unpredictability, and the enthusiasm, and the sex, and the vast amount of stuff he knew, and his kindness, and his sense of humour, and…….there were rather a lot of things, really.

“How long are you going to stay, then?” With a sideways smile, she met his eyes.

“For ever,” he replied, just as she knew he would, and then he leant across her bump and kissed her. “I’ve had enough of wandering around.” He lay down on his back, closed his eyes and folded his arms behind his neck. God, Rose thought, as she looked at him, that suit was absolutely wrecked.

But never mind that now, she thought. He had enough Time Lord protocol not to turn up at a high-level meeting looking as if he’d just had a run-in with the Slitheen (which was, more or less, why that suit looked wrecked). What mattered was the way he’d changed. The smile that used jump around and never quite connect with her had been replaced by something far more permanent, and laughter lines were beginning to form at the corners of his eyes. She bent down towards him and kissed them.

“D’you know what?” he said, contentedly. “I love you to bits, Mrs Smith.”

Oh yes. He’d changed all right.

“Love you, too,” she murmured, stroking his hand and wishing she was trim enough to lie beside him on the grass. It was something that he rarely gave her the opportunity to say. But then, he already knew. Both of them did.

After a moment, he sat up again, and they sat together watching the primary star of Sol 3 slip below the horizon in a red ball of fire reflected, brokenly, on the waves.

“Not bad for a planet with only one sun,” he conceded.

She looked at him, as she often did, wondering whether this might be the right time to probe the memories in his mind. He’d tell her, she told herself, when he was ready. That hadn’t used to worry her, but now it was beginning to. There were more than two people involved now. Every child, and this one more than most, had the right to know where they had come from.

“What will you say to her,” she asked, “when she asks you what it was like?”

“What what was like?”

“Oh, come on. You know.” And she looked into the face she loved so much, the narrative of feelings that passed rapidly through his eyes. She’d been with him for long enough to understand why they moved quickly, too quickly for most human beings to read. It was because his people didn’t do their talking with their eyes, but with their minds.

“What will you say,” he asked, after a minute, “when she asks you where her granny is?”

“Don’t say that,” she said, shivering.

“Same thing,” he replied, with the ruthlessness that was still part of him. “What matters is what’s here and now. That’s all we have the right to change.”

The sun had disappeared completely now. “I’m cold,” she said, starting to gather the picnic remains into a bag.  “Let’s go in.” She loved her first look back inside the TARDIS when he’d been away. Seeing what little changes he’d made; half the time, she hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was going on about, but he was invariably proud of them and pleased to discuss them with her.

He got up and helped her to her feet. “You don’t want to stay out and look at the stars? That’s the bit where it gets interesting. Look, that’s where I was yesterday.”

“That isn’t a star, it’s a planet.”

“You’re learning.”

“Are the stars the same where Mum is?”

“Probably not.” They stood in the moonlight, his arms wrapped around her. Two heartbeats, the feel of old brown serge, his warm breath close to the back of her neck and the shape of the TARDIS behind them. Home.

She felt some of the held-in tension leave his limbs, and she knew he’d say something to show he was sorry for being a bit unkind to her. In the dance of human communication, he often tripped up like that. It was her job to take him by the hand and lead him through the steps, as often as it took for him to get them right.

“D’you miss her?” he asked.

“Sometimes,” she confessed. An understatement, if ever there was one, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. She knew he’d done his best.

He went very quiet for a couple of minutes, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. Rose knew he was up to something.

“Right, what’s the big idea?” she asked.

“It might not work,” he said. “And even if it did, it might not help that much.”

“What?”

“We could show her the baby. But probably only a couple of minutes, and she wouldn’t be able to touch. Maybe it isn’t such a great idea.”

It might not be a great idea, but she knew how much he’d like to try. How long had he been cooking this scheme up, she wondered? She sometimes made the mistake of forgetting how much he was capable of. That was the trouble with him learning to be ordinary.

No, she wouldn’t say impossible. That really would encourage him. She’d need to think about this carefully.

“How would it work?” she asked.

“Well, first you’d need to find a supernova.”


Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
leighleighla
Jul. 3rd, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
Ooooooh.

*loves*
catsfiction
Jul. 4th, 2007 11:27 am (UTC)
Phew!
nostariel
Jul. 4th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC)
Awww....

*huggles fic*
spastasmagoria
Jul. 8th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC)
oh yeah and did i say how you should post more of this asap?? PEESE!!!
kalleah
Jul. 12th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC)
Jemima Puddleduck. Oh, he does deserve a slap.

Lovely, and tender, and rude, which is quite right.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )