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A few hours later, Jackie and Pete trudged wearily back into the living section of the mansion. Carrying her shoes in her hand and walking gingerly in stocking feet, Jackie stopped as she heard dance music coming from the den.

“It’s almost 1.00 am,” she grumbled. Guess he didn’t get enough partyin’ in?”

“The three of ‘em had a rough night, love. Let ‘em make up for it,” Pete said. “I’ll tell you about it in the morning.” Jackie stalked up to the den entrance and leaned to peek around the corner. The first thing she noticed was a line of partially-empty liquor bottles on the bar. The blender sat half-filled with a pinkish liquid, rubber lid askew and drips running down the sides of the container. A bowl of popcorn on the coffee table was surrounded by loose kernels scattered over the table and on the floor.

In the clearest area behind the sofas, the Doctor, Rose and Hal were line dancing and singing to disco music, rocking out to an old K.C. and the Sunshine Band song playing on the rack stereo. Positioned on either side of the Doctor, Rose and Hal sang the chorus to “Give It Up” as he took the main melody, swinging long arms comically in the air. His spindly arms waved wildly above them, forming the appearance of a large spider monkey gyrating in sync with the two smaller women.

In spite of the visual contrast between the three dancers, the Doctor’s lyric baritone blended well with Rose’s sweet soprano and Hal’s rich, slightly lower tones. Hal smiled broadly while the Doctor and Rose wore beatific grins as all three checked each other’s steps. They were enjoying themselves too much to notice Jackie and Pete’s heads poking around the arched entrance.

“Oh, look at them, Pete!” Jackie sighed tearfully. “Can you believe it?”

Pete shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do the Hustle in bloody decades. Maybe my Dad when I was a kid.”

“No, silly! I meant how they’re smilin’. Have ya seen the both of ‘em that happy since they got here? Even once?”

“Looks like they did some damage to my fine liquor supply. Might have somethin’ to do with it.”

Jackie jabbed her elbow into Pete’s ribs, almost falling onto her face in the process.

“Now, don’t go bookin’ any reception halls, Jacks,” he warned her, breaking her fall. “Let ‘em figure it out on their own, ok? He seems to be doin’ jus’ fine without your… intervention.”

Jackie pulled a face, but waited with him until the three dancers turned their backs to them. They quickly tiptoed stealthily past the entrance, making their way up the stairs undetected.

After a few more songs, Hal dropped onto a sofa while stifling a conspicuous yawn. Rose joined her, slumping down and draping an arm over her forehead.

“Aw, come on,” moaned the Doctor a bit peevishly as he walked around to face the two women. “It’s only 1.36 am. You can’t be tired yet.”

“That’s three and a half hours past my bedtime, Doctor,” Hal groaned wearily. “I’m getting too old to dance all night.”

Frowning, the Doctor said nothing as he stared into space.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rose, slightly concerned.

“I knew what time it was,” he muttered. “I mean, exactly what time.”

“But you’re a Time Lord. Aren’t ya s’pose to know what time it is?”

He flicked his eyes to a clock on the mantle, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “Of course. But this is the first time I recall not having to consciously recalibrate my time sense to this universe. My natural time sense has been off since I got here.”

“Time lag,” laughed Hal. “Sort of like jet lag for Time Lord’s? You may have finally adjusted to this universe’s time stream.”

“Well, good to know it’s not permanent. It vexed me to have to consciously derive time,” he smiled. Slipping his watch off his wrist, he dangled it in the air. “Cartier, anyone?”

“Good thing ya didn’t do that at the party,” grinned Rose. “You would’ve been mobbed.”

“You’re kidding,” Hal snorted. “You wear a Cartier watch while driving a little hybrid car?”

“What’s wrong with my hybrid?” he pouted.

“Nothing, it’s just not a 911. I miss my 911 already,” Hal sighed.

“It’s only been a night, Hal,” chided the Doctor. “What were you going to do? Sleep with it?”

“Hmmm,” she hummed in amusement. “Now, there’s an idea I hadn’t thought about. I’ll need to get a bigger bed, though.”

The Doctor shook his head disapprovingly. “What is it with you and mechanical things, anyway?”

“Parts is parts… and hydraulics is hydraulics,” Hal teased him with a wicked smile.

“Spoken like a true scientist with a mechanical fiancé,” the Doctor playfully retorted. “And you’re grammatically incorrect, I might add!”

“Thank you, Professor Higgins,” she said dryly. Hauling herself up with another groan, Hal stretched and yawned. “Well, I’m off to bed. I’ve had a rather interesting day. When is breakfast?”

“About 10.00, so really brunch. I don’t expect Jackie to be up much sooner than that. I’ll probably go for a run first. Are you staying the night, Rose?”

Rose nodded, trying to stop a yawn from erupting. “I think I will,” she said. “I have a few clothes upstairs that still fit me. No makeup, though,” she frowned.

“You don’t need any makeup!” both the Doctor and Hal insisted simultaneously. They glanced at each other, aghast at their identical outbursts.

“Don’t cover your beauty with makeup,” Hal said as she recovered. “Let your skin breath.”

“May not say that after you see me at breakfast,” chuckled Rose. She rose from the sofa and moved toward the entrance. “See you both in the morning!”

“Goodnight!” Hal and the Doctor said, once again in unison.

“You’re creeping me out, Doctor,” Hal said, raising an eyebrow at him.

“I was about to say the same thing,” he chortled, catching Hal in an affectionate hug as she swayed in exhaustion. “Get some rest. You’ve had a really long and eventful day.”

“Hmmm… yeah. See you in the morning,” she whispered as she headed upstairs. He watched her walk slowly out of the room, then cleaned up their mess of popcorn and drinks before retiring.

******************************************

Something woke the Doctor from a sound sleep. He lay quietly, listening in the silence with eyes closed as the chilly fingers of anxiety passed through him. The faint sound of a snuffle drifted into his room as he strained to identify its location. Before he could determine who made the noise, he felt a wisp of panic and fear. But it wasn’t his emotions; they were coming from down the hallway.

His eyes snapped open, landing blurrily on the bedside clock. It confirmed his time sense that it was a little after 3.15 am, not long after he’d gone to bed. He jumped to his feet and threw on his bathrobe before padding barefoot down to the end of the hallway, stopping in front of Hal’s closed door to listen again.

A soft keening wafted through the wooden door, sounding not unlike the whimpering of a sleeping puppy. Rapping softly on the door, he called out to her.

“Hal, are you alright?” He heard more whimpers and then the sound of struggling. Hal called out an anguished, breathy “No!” Her cries were followed by the muffled sound of struggling.

Bursting through the door, heart pounding in alarm, the Doctor ran into the room and stopped. A duvet was piled on the floor beside the bed. Alone, Hal struggled fitfully enshrouded tightly in the sheets, groaning and whipping her head back and forth as if fighting against an unseen foe. He dropped to his knees beside the bed and gently shook her shoulder to try to rouse her.

“Hal, wake up. You’re dreaming,” he said softly. He nudged her again and again, but Hal fought even harder. He climbed into the bed and tried to extract her from the twisted sheet, calling imploringly to her in an attempt to wake her from her nightmare. Her face and red silk pyjamas were drenched in perspiration; her fine wispy hair clung to her forehead in shiny tangled mats, like flattened beds of beached kelp, as she twitched and jerked away from him. The Doctor pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently as he called to her in her ear.

“Oh, Hal, love… Please wake up! You’ve got to wake up. It’s only a nightmare.” A plaintive howl rose from her throat as she stiffened, eyes still clenched tightly shut. “What am I going to do with you?” the Doctor groaned. Suddenly her eyes flew open, glazed and unseeing, fixated on images deep within her psyche. In a panic, he placed fingertips at her temple and desperately dove into her mind… and encountered a swirling maelstrom of horrific images and emotions that stunned him even with his 900 years of experience.

A storm of emotion buffeted him; fear, humiliation, agony, helplessness, loneliness and despair. Torture and beatings, injections and invasive procedures, excruciating shocks and drowning; and far, far worse. Confinement in a 10’x10’ room empty of all but equipment and a monitor displaying planet after planet cracking, splintering, shattering, burning; her unwilling hands at the control. The psychic screams of millions reverberating through her head, crying out in terror and extreme suffering. Shame, recrimination, self-hatred… disgrace. Hatred. Terrible, all-consuming hatred for the ones who used her radiated from her centre, howling for revenge and retribution…

“Oh, no, Hal! No!” moaned the Doctor, fearful for Hal’s sanity. “Don’t let the Darkness take you! You’re so much better than that. Don’t let it win!” Tears of heartbreak and empathy rose unbidden to his eyes and threatened to spill, but he didn’t feel them. He could only feel the anguish of the woman in his arms and a desire to assuage her pain.

He let himself wash over her in a tide of love, hope, acceptance and reassurance, and offered her safe harbour. He felt her rush to meet him. Their minds touched, and then he felt her mind slide into his and his deeper into hers. He showed her how he saw her; how brave, how powerful, how brilliant, artistic and loyal; how much he admired her rebellious and inquisitive character. He saw how she secretly quelled and marvelled at his power, of his innate ability to sense and manipulate Time and Space, of his vast intellect and capacity for forgiveness and of his strong drive to right what was wrong. They threw open the mental doors to their thoughts and memories, dropping the barriers between them in a show of trust.

Together, they mourned the lives they had taken; cried for the lives they had failed to save; cried for Gallifrey and other living planets destroyed forever. They grieved for the people they knew they would never be, for the childhoods lost, for the irreparable damage that had been done. They wept for friends, families and lovers lost to time, distance or circumstances. They clung to hope against insurmountable odds, the odds against snatching back a fraction of what had the Universe had taken from them, and they resolved to beat them.

He felt Hal relax as their minds slowly unravelled each from the other. They drew slightly apart and stared, feeling the strong pulse of the new bond they’d just forged. Hal was trembling, still shaken by the terrifying images of her dream. A single tear coursed down her cheek, which the Doctor tenderly scrubbed away with his thumb.

“What have we done?” she whispered in a tremulous voice.

“What was always meant to be,” he smiled gently. She reached through their newly formed bond, and he showed her the intertwining timelines.

“None of us would be here if you hadn’t come through the rift,” he explained. “You were meant to be here. Our lives… yours, Roses and mine… they are interconnected somehow. I knew there was something special about you from the moment we met, although I had no idea things would take the turn they did.”

“Does that mean I’m stuck here forever? That my destiny is to remain here for the rest of my life?”

“Oh, no… no, no, no,” he said with a shake of his head. “Do you really think that it is a coincidence that one of the most skilled navigators in the multiverse with knowledge of how to travel through wormholes, knowledge that even the last of the Time Lords doesn’t have, would slip through a rift in Time-Space where a twin Time Lord would eventually appear? And that somehow out of the billions of people on the planet you would meet said twin, who just happens to have a piece of living TARDIS coral?”

Hal sighed sadly. “I wish Elly and Alan were here. They could give you a proper welcome to the family. You have a new sister and brother-in-law, you know,” she said with a tearful smile. “You’d feel them through our bond, if they weren’t… if they…”

“Stop it,” he interrupted softly. “Don’t think about that. And let me get used to having one new sister first, eh?”

She nodded slowly, wearily as he eased her flat in bed and straightened her covers.

“You’ll see them soon, ok? We just need transport, some data, our brilliant brains, and a little luck,” he said as he picked up the duvet and tucked it around her shivering body. He kissed her on the forehead as he prepared to head back to his bedroom.

“Stay?” Hal asked in a small voice, biting her lower lip.

“You want me to stay until you fall back to sleep?”

“Yeah,” she nodded bashfully.

He smiled and climbed into the bed on top of the duvet, pulling Hal close to his side as he cradled her head on his shoulder.

“Your feet are going to get cold,” she mumbled sleepily.

“Aww, they’re alright. Warmer than a Time Lord, but still pretty cool, so I won’t feel it. Besides, better cold feet than getting other parts bobbed by Jackie if she catches me in your bed,” he said with a wink.

Hal snorted a laugh before drifting off to sleep within a few minutes. The Doctor listened to her lengthening breath to assure himself she wasn’t resuming her nightmare. Unable to resist, he traced the link between them, marvelling at how strong and comforting the low level hum was, now that she was asleep. He felt as if he had been granted a great gift; one that helped alleviate the aching hole in his chest; the hole that he had never hoped to have filled again. If this was a true sibling bond, how much more powerful would a marriage bond be?

He touched the faint and atrophied link he now knew he shared with Rose, hoping to find a way to strengthen it… soon. How he had managed not to notice their link before surprised him, although he must have known on a subconscious level. Instinctively, he must have sensed that his intense feelings for her would have resulted in a permanent pair-bond had he touched her mind. The severance of such an intimate bond would have threatened his very existence. Typically for him, he had resisted. Always a rebel at heart, he had managed not to form a marriage bond even with his Gallifreyan wife, who didn’t seem to mind in the least.

Had he continued the Time Lord meditation discipline as he should, he would have noticed the formation of a psychic link, ever so tenuous, with Rose. He undoubtedly would have understood the significance; of how Rose shared a special relationship with the TARDIS when she became the Bad Wolf entity; of how his and Rose’s links to the TARDIS wove them into an intricate unit across all Time-Space.

“The Doctor. In the TARDIS. With Rose Tyler. Just as it should be.”

Oh, his other self had known, even then on that bitterly cold beach when his heart had spoken the Truth his huge Time Lord brain hadn’t yet fully fathomed. Had the full Time Lord known the link existed, would he have ever let her go? Or had he figured it out and that was why he had pushed them away? Some day he hoped to ask him…

Extricating himself from Hal, who shifted slightly in her sleep, he arose from the bed. An aching exhaustion washed over him as he closed the door, leaving it opened a crack so that he could hear if Hal succumbed to another nightmare. The excitement of the past evening and their bonding had taken its toll.

Crawling into his bed, he sighed as his protesting body relaxed into the mattress. He touched the bond again in wonder, assuring himself again that it would alert him if Hal needed him. Smiling at the faint hum, he reflected on how much it reminded him of the bonds he once shared with his children. He felt the sting of unshed tears at the loss, but also at the comfort of the new proper bond now partially filling the horrendous void in his mind. Sending a wave of tender affection toward his slumbering sister, he drifted into a dreamless sleep.


**********************************************************************************
Yes, yes...this chapter goes on and on and on...  It is, indeed, a bit of a monster.  Part III (c) should be done by the end of tomorrow and should be just as long.  My guess is that this chapter will end up being close to 9k words before it's finished.  A bit of a shocker to come... (evil laugh).

Wayward Son, Chapter 20: Need to Know, Part III (a)

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
biteymadlady58
Mar. 4th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
Well, well, well... needless to say a proper marriage bond would knock his socks off. And since he's never entered into one before, he's almost as clueless as Rose. ;-)

Thanks, Who. A lot goes on in this full chapter, so splitting it up into three parts on LJ makes sense. Hopefully the folks on TEA won't be intimidated by its length when I put it all together.
tracy_lousia
Mar. 4th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
Wow, I have to agree with Who, superbly fun and pretty powerful chapter. Loved that the sibling bond has formed with Hal and can't wait to see what the bond will be like with Rose. Not looking forward to the shocker you mentioned, can't you just skip it, lol.
biteymadlady58
Mar. 4th, 2012 02:01 am (UTC)
Good shocker... good shocker! Nothing to fear here, just more plot twists and clues. ;-)
kelkat9
Mar. 4th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
It so did not go on and on. It flew by which is due to it being so incredibly emotional and touching. I loved it and can't wait for the next chapter. Long chapters are the best!
biteymadlady58
Mar. 4th, 2012 02:03 am (UTC)
Well, KK... let's just say that I have no interest in writing 1000 chapters of approximately 10k words, like another writer I've been following. LOL! I'll wait until I'm retired to torture people with those.

Thanks, and I was hoping it would come out emotional and touching, but without sounding maudlin and hokey.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )