Authors: kelkat9 and who_in_whoville
Disclaimer: We do not own anything of Doctor Who
Summary: Rose hates the colour white. It's what she sees right before she jumps through the Void and the last thing she sees when she returns. This is a story of dimension hopping Rose and her travels through the Void.
A/N: This was a collaboration written for the lovely kilodalton for her birthday :)
Nature Abhors a Vacuum…
There was a time when I associated the colour white with purity, innocence and good. It was the colour of fresh milk and snow, fluffy clouds and nice, happy things. But then I learned that this seemingly innocent colour was anything but innocent.
White was cold and empty, the absence of colour and joy; and for sure, was not always good. All it took was one moment, one slip of my fingers to learn that white was loss, pain and frustration.
I hate the colour white.
In this universe, there was no Rose Tyler, so I had to build a new life here. Two years ago, I’d never even heard the name Torchwood and now here I am, at the top of Torchwood Tower, in London, in a parallel world. Not many Torchwood agents are even allowed up here, in this room where my life was changed forever. Sure, they know about aliens and advanced technology that most humans on this planet couldn’t even dream about. But parallel worlds? I guess some things are too much for even them to take in.
After the last time I saw my Doctor on that cold, white beach, my life became focused on the one thing. If there was one thing that I knew and was good at, it was dealing with aliens. I get that it’s a big universe out there and we are just one small part of it. So I set out to teach the people at Torchwood how to not judge people just because their skin might be blue, or they have an extra eyeball or two. I showed them that it was better to try and understand first, not just react.
Some of them couldn’t get over the differences between humans and aliens, and they found themselves booted out with a dose of retcon as their going away present. Others were brilliant, and some of them became my friends.
When the stars started disappearing, the greatest minds this world had to offer worked nonstop, but no one had an answer. I had the answer though, and he was in a parallel universe. Pete, he’s the Director of Torchwood, agreed with me and we started working on the dimension cannon.
We kept it here, in this cold white room where I first became a prisoner of this world. The boundaries between universes are weaker here. It took us years of theorising, experimenting, building and rebuilding to develop the dimension cannon. Turns out, I knew a fair bit more about mechanical engineering and quantum physics than I thought, but then I had a good teacher. It wasn’t easy and I can’t say I didn’t smash a few mugs against a wall, or lay into a few snippy scientist types who refused to listen, but in the end it was worth it.
The thing of it was though, it wasn’t entirely without risk. We sent drones through first, of course, and then a few mice. But, drones and mice weren’t going to get the job done. I would.
I went alone. Things weren’t stable enough at first to send more than one person. I stood alone in this room surrounded by nothing but the colour I hated most. The rest of the dimension cannon team was in a control room separated from the actual cannon. But here in the white room, it was just me and these white walls and a cold metal piece of equipment, humming and flashing red and yellow lights at me.
I didn’t take much with me, afraid of damaging time lines or altering a causal nexus. I always wore the same clothes. I never knew if I would land at different spots in the timeline so I had to stay consistent. Didn’t want to have to explain time travel when I popped into someone’s world. It was dangerous already without adding that into the mix.
If I landed in one world more than once, they called me the blonde girl in the bright blue jacket, or other something more poetic… or not so poetic. I remember the first time that happened. It was my fifth jump. I stood ready, waiting to cross over, listening to Mickey tell me about the latest Star Wars movie that was out. It was a nice distraction and was sort of our ritual. He’d never tell me the end though. Told me I had to come back to find out how it all worked out. After that, one of the scientists would count down to activation, then shoot me through the Void, and into another universe.
Travelling through the Void wasn’t like stepping through a doorway. Certainly wasn’t gentle. In fact, crossing the Void was like tumbling down ice filled rapids with jagged shards of ice piercing my flesh like frozen knives. The cold invaded my veins. There was this roar that sounded a bit like screaming mixed with the sound of scraping and twisting metal. It was almost unbearable, and just when I thought I’d be crushed, I would tumble out, disoriented for a moment.
So like I said, it was on my fifth jump. I landed on a street in a city similar to the London I had just left. It was cold and foggy out. There was almost no noise other than the sound of dripping water. I contacted Control to let them know I was through, and began scouting the area to figure out where and when exactly I was. There were no people around, no news stands, no telly or even radios playing. Suddenly, a bloke dressed in clothes similar to my world came bolting by.
I sensed something was wrong and backed up into the shadows of an alley, and then I saw what he was running from. They were these alien hunters I’d seen before, the Talox, the called themselves. They were these humanoid bat creatures, twice the size of a human. I watched them chase this bloke into a park and then I saw drones fly by after them. Someone was watching this hunt and that was even more disturbing.
I made my way toward where the man had come from, and ran into a few more humans who pulled me into a building. They told me this Earth had been invaded and was being used for games to amuse the invaders. It was clear, this was another parallel Earth. I should have just left but after seeing the looks of desperation on their faces, seeing a fading glimmer of hope in their eyes, I couldn’t just leave them. So, I stayed for a while, taught them how to defend themselves. I told them about the Talox, what their weaknesses were, and how to defeat their technology.
I traveled from camp to camp of humans hiding out, and I taught them. I traveled back and forth to that world a few times, helping them and gathering information for our scientists. But it also helped calibrate the cannon.
On my last trip back, I landed a year after my first jump into that world. The Talox were being driven out and there was a legend being passed around about the blonde haired girl in the blue jacket who turned the tide of the invasion. A little girl on the street ran up to me and told me about it, looking at me as if I was some type of hero. I knew I had to leave and worried about what I’d done. I wasn’t any hero and didn’t do anything, not really. In fact, it scared me that I’d gone too far. All I could do was hope I’d helped them, and not mucked it up.
Not all jumps worked out that nice. I landed in the middle of a battle once. There was nothing human on that world. It was a world on fire, filled with rubble and never-ending fighting. The air was filled with smoke and the scent of decay and something not human. I tumbled into the rubble and watched the fight. They weren’t using any advanced weaponry, but what they had was still lethal. They fought with wicked looking knives, swords, spears and things I couldn’t identify. I nearly died there when one of the creatures, these big things like a cross between an ape and a dinosaur attacked me. It took me weeks to recover from the wounds and the bacteria on that world that had infected me. The doctors said I should have died, but I told them I didn’t have time for that. The stars were still going out.
There was also the time I landed in a real peaceful Earth. It was lovely. The people there were more technologically advanced than us, and not at all surprised to have this blonde girl pop into existence in the middle of their capital. They invited me to tea with a group of their leaders and top scientists.
That was the first time I found a parallel version of the Doctor — my first Doctor. He was the image of him… same blue eyes, smile and sense of humour. He took me around London, and bought me chips. He paid, even. I stayed a couple of days there with him. It was a world where they’d figured out how to get on with one another, how to make it work. I was so tempted to stay there…with him. He told me he felt a connection to me and we talked about everything, both his life and mine. He even helped me work out some flaws with the dimension cannon. But as much as I wanted it, he wasn’t my Doctor and the stars were still going out, even in his universe. One of the hardest things I did during those jumps was say goodbye to him.
Not all parallel versions of my Doctor were like that. I ran into one, a dark version of my pinstriped Doctor, who was a tyrant, bent on world domination. I watched the people of that world fight against him. He saw me too. The look in his eyes scared me. He hunted me. I was afraid of what he’d do if he caught me, and I knew I had to run the moment he spotted me.
I ran all over London for two days, crawling through sewers, hiding out in rat infested buildings and avoiding people at all costs. He was a telepath and used people as surveillance cameras, and he never stopped. In that universe, the dimension cannon had a hard time bringing me back. I think he had something to do with it. He may have been an evil git, but he was a brilliant evil git.
He caught up with me eventually, had me pinned up in an alley with no exit. He was cocky about it too, telling me how he enjoyed the chase, but now he was going to claim his reward. He sniffed the air and smirked, his brown eyes lacking the warmth I was used to seeing in my Doctor’s eyes. He told me he could smell my fear mixed with all this artron energy and Void stuff covering me. I could tell he liked it. His eyes…they were filled with madness and he kept going on how he needed a new pet and one who had what I did. Just as he got close, the dimension cannon pulled me back. I never told Pete or anyone about that trip. I just crawled into a hot shower and tried to scrub that memory away.
But I can’t make it go away. He’s the Doctor, right? I can’t help but wonder why he ended up the way he did. Didn’t he have anyone to stop him? Or was there no one to hold his hand? I pity him, and hope that someday, someone will come along and help him become who I know he really is, down deep.
After that jump, if I knew we hadn’t found my real Doctor, I didn’t stick around long enough to explore, or even help worlds who could have used my assistance. I felt guilty about that, but I became even more driven to find the proper Doctor. My Doctor. Besides, if I didn’t find him soon, there wouldn’t be any worlds to jump into. The darkness was gaining on us.
And then we found a way to transmit audio and video through the Void. We thought if we could get a message to him, talk to him, he could help pull me through, or at least give us better coordinates. I saw him so many times, but I must be the unluckiest person in the universe, because he never saw or heard me.
One time we connected to the video monitor inside of the TARDIS. Another time, he was in a vehicle of some kind, running his gob. I could tell he was having a good time. People were laughing and smiling as my Doctor was probably giving them the history of how the planet had the biggest banana groves in the quadrant or something. It was disappointing on one hand, but more frustrating than anything. But at least I got to see him, and that helped. It was good to see him. So good.
The first time I landed on the right earth at the right time, I thought I’d found him for sure. Alien activity, check. Big spaceship above London pulling little white blobs of fat up inside? Yep. But I must have just missed him. He never was one to stick around. I watched on as the authorities mopped up, and there was a ginger-haired woman there. She asked me to tell a blonde woman about car keys and a bin. I didn’t have the time to stick around, so I shrugged it off, and left.
And then…I found him. I found both him and his TARDIS. We locked onto her and I jumped. I hit the pavement running towards the coordinates, but I was too late. There were police and soldiers and an ambulance, and then I saw a body covered by a white sheet being lifted into that ambulance. I knew it was him. He was dead. Drowned in the Thames I found out later.
I thought I was going to fall apart, right there in that dark street. I ran up to the first person I found and asked her if they’d found anyone, and she said they’d found a bloke called the Doctor. I was so rude. I barked at her, asking her where they’d taken him. She didn’t know anything of course, she was just a bystander. And I snapped at her, and then I saw something… on her back. She looked back at me, asked me what I was looking at, why I was staring at her back. She looked so frightened, and here I was making her even more scared, and all I could say was, “I’ve come so far…”
I lied to her. I told her there wasn’t anything on her back.
When I landed back in the white room, I collapsed onto the floor in hysterics. Mickey and Jake tried to guide me out of the room, but I refused to leave, so they sat next to me, each on a side, as I sat on the floor, leaning up against that bloody white wall. Finally, Pete came in and told me that I had to calm down, and be debriefed. The approach of the darkness was speeding up rapidly, and I was going to have to cry on my own time. He apologised later, but he was scared.
It wasn’t until I had calmed down, had a cuppa and a bite to eat that I realised that I had seen that ginger-haired woman before. I started rattling off the differences between our two meetings, and how I had felt that everything was wrong about that world. Here it was, Christmas Eve, and she was standing on a cold dark street, watching a dead body being hauled off. Why wasn’t she home celebrating with her family? Her eyes were without life, like she had no hope. This was not the same Donna I had briefly met the first time. That first time…she told me her name. Donna.
The scientists chalked it up to intuition, or psychic echoing or something else, but I knew it was more than that. It was the TARDIS. She had somehow communicated to me that things were wrong, and needed to be fixed.
So as a team, we made a decision that I had to jump back, using the same exact coordinates. The first thing I did was find the TARDIS. That wasn’t too hard. UNIT had it. It took some doing, but I proved myself to them. I think it helped that showed off a bit. I disappeared in front of their eyes, and reappeared with a trinket from my universe. They had known the Doctor, and they had trusted him. I told them about being at the Battle of Canary Wharf with him. They had been spying on Torchwood, and after the organisation fell, they had gone in and mopped up the mess. Apparently there was CCTV security footage of the Doctor and me, so they knew I had been travelling with him. They also had a basic understanding of the Void. When I explained how I’d been saved from death by my parallel father, they weren’t sure what to make of me, but they must’ve trusted me. Maybe I have an honest face.
I was heartbroken to learn that the TARDIS was dying. Wrong universe, of course. Petrol in a diesel engine, he had said once. But I think she knew I was there, and she fought to stay alive long enough for us to build a basic time machine, because it didn’t take too long to figure out what needed to be done. My mission was plain, but not easy: first I had to save Donna’s life, because without her, the Doctor died, and without the Doctor to defend Earth, everything else would end, too.
So I made sure she was safely outside of London when the Titanic crashed. After that, I had to gain her trust, which was hard, because I couldn’t even tell him my name. But the worst thing, the most horrible thing I have ever had to do, was convince her she had to give up her life to save his. That’s where the time machine came in. She had to travel back into her own past, make one little change… She had to turn left instead of right.
She was so brave, so brilliant, and as she lay on the ground, having a hard time breathing, I felt like I was outside of my body, watching someone else doing the talking. Like my own ghost watching myself. I don’t remember much after I whispered Bad Wolf into her ear. I woke up in sick bay with an IV poking my hand, and a really bad headache.
Doesn’t matter what happened to me, not really. Only thing that matters is that Donna Noble saved all of us.
You know the rest of the story, of course. I made my last jump, this time carrying a really, really big gun. I figured I’d apologise to the Doctor later, but I figured he’d see my point of view, considering what we were going up against. Daleks.
And then, there you were. Finally, I find you, and you’re running to me, and all I can think about is holding you, and hoping you’ll still want me…
I stop talking, and look over at the lanky man next to me. He has let me tell my whole story, not even interrupting once. I’m not sure if that’s a function of his new body, or just because he has changed since we were torn apart.
“Thanks for listening. I needed to tell you before, well, you know…” I look over at the control booth, and then back at him.
“Do you want me to do it? Turn it off?” His brown eyes are serious as he quietly asks me the question.
I stand up, and walk over to the silver machine, the power source of the dimension cannon. I trace an edge, feeling the sharp corner against my pointer finger. This silver box with its red and yellow lights flashing at me, is the only colour in this otherwise stark white room. I turn around and look at him. He’s standing, watching me carefully, with hands pushed deep into his blue pinstriped pockets.
I shake my head, but keep my eyes on his. “No. I need to do this.”
He nods, and his eyes soften. I reach out to him, and he accepts my hand. I lead him out of the white room, and into the control booth. My fingers hover over the keyboard for a moment, shaking slightly. I smile, and laugh quietly, positive that Mickey must’ve been the one to come up with the simple shutdown sequence: control, alt, delete.
He must think I’m having second thoughts, because he slips his warm arm around my waist and pulls me into his side. He has no reason to worry. My hesitation isn’t because I want to keep my options open. I don’t want to go back. Not now. I’m scared to do it because of the finality of it all. I’m afraid I’m gonna wake up and find it has been a dream, and he won’t be standing beside me.
But then I realise that pressing the keys will prove that my mission was successful, even if the outcome wasn’t anything I could have ever dreamt up.
So I press the keys, and the deep, barely audible thumping sound emanating from the adjacent room dims down, until there is only silence.
I put my arm around his waist, and together we return into the white room. I promise myself this is the last time I will ever come in here, well, unless there is a universe-shaking event that requires us to jump, together, of course. But I doubt that will be the case, and I need one good memory in here.
We stand in the centre of the room, and I pull him into a tight embrace. My ear rests over his single beating heart, the new warmth of his body finally satisfying that cold, white ache. I stand on tiptoe, and place a brief, soft kiss on his lips.
I still hate white, but I think I may just hate it a little bit less. I look up, and offer him a small smile which he returns threefold. There he is, my New New New Doctor. I look over at our reflection in the glass of the control booth window — the two of us in our matching blue, and I see far less white than I have in years.