Chapter Eleven

The Doctor's hearts lurched when Gaz reeled back from the revelation. All the pain he'd spent centuries burying surfaced upon seeing the tormented look on his clone's face.

"Is…is she alright?" Gaz finally said. "Please tell me she's alright."

"She's alright," the Doctor said gently. "She married another man and I made sure she had plenty of money to live comfortably on. She is back to her old self but that's better than dying."

"Yeah," Gaz murmured. "Just one moment, I need time to process this."

He turned and walked away while the Doctor watched him go with an ache in his hearts. He'd managed to put the thoughts of Donna aside and now it'd been dredged up again, opened like a fresh wound. He didn't blame his clone for needing time alone, he could use a breather himself, especially after learning that he might become the very thing he feared all these years. He sat down on the tree, taking in what his clone had said. He remembered his time during the trial and the Valeyard. He focused on the Valeyard in his mind's eye and realized that his face did resemble the stern, thin face that haunted his dreams. The Valeyard was wearing a black skullcap during that time so he couldn't see his hair but just the same…

"Time can be rewritten," the Doctor murmured to himself as he stared off into space, lost in his thoughts.

As he ruminated on that, he became aware of Rose standing near him, gazing at him with concern. He brought himself back to the present day and stared at her.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you, Doctor," Rose said to him.

"No, I'm sorry, Rose," the Doctor said gently. "That was uncalled for. Especially since I've been known to break a few rules myself. I can't blame you for wanting to return to the universe you came from, I just hate that you take too many reckless chances. I do worry about you still, even though you might not believe that. But are you sure this is what you want? I keep telling you that you'll never see your mother again."

"I know that but this is what I want," Rose said. "I love Mum but her idea of living a life is staying put in that mansion and living off Dad's wealth. That's not for me."

The Doctor smiled at that and nodded. He stiffened for a moment when Rose suddenly threw her arms around him and hugged him tight.

"I'm glad you're still here," she said in his ear, "even if you have changed."

"Thank you, Rose," the Doctor said, returning the hug. "And I am glad to see you again, even if you and your husband did take another foolish chance."

Rose kissed his cheek and smiled when the Doctor blushed. But the smile became another look of concern and she took his hand.

"What Gaz said…that can't happen, yeah? You can't be evil. You're the Doctor," Rose said, studying his face.

The Doctor smiled at that. In many ways, Rose was very worldly but in others she was very innocent. Still, it was her innocence and faith in him that he loved. It was what made him open his hearts to her all those years ago. He glanced up and noticed that Clara was behind Rose now, giving him the same worried look as Rose. He hated to lie to the people he cared about but what could he say? He didn't want to admit it to himself, let alone them. He shook his head and put on his most convincing smile.

"Time is a strange thing," he said to them. "There are many possibilities, many directions that time can go. The Valeyard is just one such direction and now that I know about it, I intend not to go that way. Perhaps that's why you were so successful in coming here," he said to Rose. "This whole meeting was meant as a warning to me and I intend to heed it."

He noticed both women relaxing at that and he smiled, hoping that what he just said was true. To be honest, he had no idea what would happen. As far as he knew, only the Master lived past thirteen lives and that was mostly because he possessed other people and benefitted from being resurrected. The fact that he was here now proved that it was possible to live past the thirteen life rule but in his youth, he had been told that the reason why it was set at thirteen was because regeneration was a strain on the mind and anyone who went past twelve regenerations tended to go insane. It was why he believed the Master had been unhinged and he had no desire to follow in his adversary's footsteps. For the moment, he seemed sane enough, at least as sane as he ever was but would that last? He made a decision not to share his fears with the others. No use worrying them over something that might not come to pass.

Another matter was Rose. He was trying to act as if her being here didn't matter, when in fact it did. That was another thing he tried to keep pushed down deep inside him. He'd been trying to do that ever since he left her and Gaz in the other universe, trying to shove his feelings for her so deep inside he wouldn't pause to reflect on what he just did. Just the sight of her though brought back all those old feelings and despite his outward appearance, he was burning with jealously inside. Especially since his clone got to marry Rose and have a life with her. He found himself resenting his clone and he kept trying to stop himself from thinking that but each time he looked at his Rose, it resurfaced. He wanted them to go away but at the same time, he wanted them to stay or Rose to stay at any rate.

And then suddenly, that thought became real because he realized that Gaz was calling to Rose, telling her they were going while he said goodbye to Clara.

"Wait, where are you going?" the Doctor said, jumping up.

"We're not wanted here," Gaz said. "Rose and I should be getting on. We'll promise not to cross paths with you in future. Come on, Rose."

The Doctor wanted to tell them to go but he found himself calling them back.

"Wait," he said to them. "Look, we got off on the wrong foot and I don't want you to leave thinking we're all enemies. Let's just…go somewhere for awhile and get to know each other. I'm sure Clara wants that."

Clara nodded, much to the Doctor's relief. He waited with baited breath while Rose and Gaz softly discussed it before Gaz nodded.

"Alright then, we'll go somewhere together and see what happens," Gaz said.

The Doctor nodded and smiled at Rose. Rose smiled back shyly and the Doctor felt another pang of jealousy when she took Gaz's hand and he squeezed it. He forced himself to smile and gestured towards the field.

"Shall we walk back then?" he said to them.

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