Rose wasn't, by nature, exceptionally patient. Sure, she could tolerate people, not snap or lose her temper, it wasn't people she was impatient with. It was waiting. Given the circumstances, she was going to have to get used to waiting.
And I'll make you wait a long time!
He'd jumped. Just like that, he'd taken the horse (that damn, stupid horse, she didn't even like horses) and jumped through the mirror and out of her life. Reinette was beautiful. She was graceful, intelligent, born in wealth. She was everything Rose wasn't- well, except blonde. They were both blonde. A tiny voice in her head argued that Reinette was a natural blonde, but Rose quickly squashed that thought. Reinette de Pompadour. The queen of the world. The most intelligent, beautiful, amazing woman in history.
Rose Tyler. Shop girl.
“Nope. Well, yes, but at the same time, a great, big, resounding no.” He rubbed at the back of his hair, ruffling it in a manner so familiar, it almost undid the gravity of his answer. She rested her chin on her knees and glanced over at him.
“I don't understand. You look the same, you mentioned Canary Wharf-”
“All of that did happen to me, Rose. I'm sure it happened to a hundred versions of me, and it was probably all pretty similar. And there are versions of me where it never happened at all, or versions of you that never met me, or places like this universe, where I never existed. Infinite number of universes, infinite number of possibilities.” He tilted his head, watching a ship glide across the open water.
“But when you- he- the last time he was here, he said-”
“He was wrong. Not impossible, happens from time to time. Probably thought the walls were sealed up, as well. Just because they are on his side doesn't mean there isn't damage on your side, or the rest of them, either.” He shoved off the bench, wandering out toward the place where the sidewalk met safety rail, and leaned against it.
She stayed seated for a few moments longer, watching him, a question rolling around in her mouth.
“Aren't you going to ask me?” He spoke up without looking at her.
“Ask you what?”
“If I'll take you back to him.” Damn. Different version of him, and he still knew her. It was... painful.
He turned to face her, crossing his arms across his chest.
Her brow furrowed, and a frown instantly tugged at her lips. She let her legs drop, and shoved off the bench herself. “Why not?”
He didn't answer, but something in his eyes... they flicked away from her face, but it was too late. She'd seen the pain, touching just at the corners.
“Doctor...” He stiffened, then relaxed. “What happened to your Rose?”
He lowered his eyes, and his arms, and his fingers curled around the railing. He didn't answer, at first, not for a long time, but Rose knew to wait. He might've been different, but really, he was the same.
He made a noise, the short, casual intake of breath, and said simply... “She fell.”
It took Rose a minute to catch on, and when she did... oh.
“Into the void. She lost her grip, and fell into Hell. And the walls closed around her. Trapped there. A second, a minute, a year, it doesn't matter. She'd've gone mad.” He closed his eyes. “And it was my fault.”
Rose didn't think. Didn't stop to consider that she might have been hurting the situation more than helping it. She strode forward, wrapping her arms around his middle, pressing her head to his chest. For a long time, he didn't move. And then he did, he curled around her, gripping her, pressing his face into her hair. He didn't make any noise, but she felt something warm, something wet, and she squeezed her eyes shut.
It was over instantly. He broke away, separating himself from her, striding down the sidewalk by a few yards. His hands in his pockets. His stance stiff.
“I'll help you.” He didn't sound like a man that'd just been crying. He didn't sound like a man in pain. He sounded like a man who had nothing else.
He strode forward, and didn't turn to make sure she followed.
“I've checked it twice.”
“Check it again.”
“Do as she says, Mickey.” Pete spoke up, arms crossed tightly over his chest. This was the first time he'd spoken since Mickey started his presentation. He didn't snap, didn't indicate he didn't believe the man, just that he needed to know for certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt that the information was correct.
Mickey kept his gaze a minute, then nodded, swirling around in the swivel chair. There was nothing but the sound of clicking keys for a long moment, and then a pause. He pointed to the screen. “There, boss. This line. It should be a fact. It's a wall, walls don't just... wobble. They don't get bigger or smaller, 'cos they're walls. This one... it's like in some sort of state of flux. One minute it's there, the next, it's gone. I've checked all the machines, had your boys in blue recalibrate it, load it up themselves. All the same. All the time.”
“So... what you're sayin' is...” Rose leaned over his shoulder, her heart hammering in her chest. “That it's... disappearing? The wall between this universe and... back home?”
“That's not it at all,” Mickey said, shaking his head. “The way Doctor Radford explained it to me... he said it's like... there are all sorts of walls, it's not like we're on one side and they're on the other. It's like... every universe is a room in a building, right? There's more than just two of 'em. You can knock down the left wall, but you've got three other walls that lead to different rooms.
Except, there aren't just four walls, there are hundreds, thousands, I dunno, we haven't figured out how many yet, some of 'em are touching, some aren't, some are the same, some are different. The only reason back home and this world kept crossing over is because it happened the first time. Put holes in the walls. Probably like the shoddiest door ever. A locked door, but it was still a door. Now it's like... like someone's taking a wrecking ball and just smashing the walls down.”
Rose's eyes widened, and she leaned back. “Is this 'cos... is it because of the ghost thing? Is it Torchwood's fault?”
Mickey shook his head. “I dunno. I don't think so. The boys in the lab thought about that, too, but that'd just effect ours and theirs. It'd tear down the wall, but the rest of the universe is structurally sound enough to support the rest of the building. This is all of 'em. Whatever it is... it's big. Way bigger than Cybermen or Daleks. This thing.. it's multiversal.”
Pete reclined against the desk, fingers curling around the lip, staring contemplatively at the polished floor for a long moment. “We're gonna need the Doctor.”
“Oh, without a doubt.” Began a voice from the door. Three heads whipped up to stare, awestruck, at the pinstriped figure leaning casually against the frame. He pushed off, strolling casually into the room, looking frustratingly comfortable and at ease, as the other occupants struggled to keep their jaws off of the floor. “But the question is... Which one?”