Happy early Thanksgiving everybody! So sorry this took a so long. I was having fights with myself over exactly how to progress...anyhoo. That and finals at school. Quarter system, so finals before Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. Yay. Lol. :P
Anyway, so to apologize, this chapter's about twice as long as usual. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! Please do review; I really couldn't do it without ya'll. :) Thanks again!
Capriala VII was just as beautiful as the Doctor claimed. The ice was a fluorescent purple beneath them. It wasn't only purple; it glowed.
"Bio-luminescent organisms in the ice," he told her.
"But if it's ice, shouldn't they be frozen? Wouldn't they be dead?"
"Not at all. Not here, anyway. They can both tunnel through the ice and phase through it, depending on the situation. It's their natural habitat."
Rose gaped down at said ice, still not certain whether she felt comfortable enough to step out onto it. She was still hovering in the Tardis door, watching the supposedly solid purple ice appear to move and ripple like water.
"I suppose that's why it looks like it's movin' then?"
"Exactly," he grinned. "That's them, just moving about below. They don't have any idea we're up here; they don't come close enough to the surface to be bothered. It looks like they're close, but that's the ice reflecting the glow."
Reassured, she grinned at him and without any further reservations she took an experimental step out onto the ice in her skates. Her arms were out, and the Doctor caught one of them and followed her. He stumbled almost immediately, and Rose laughed at him.
"I told you it's been a while," he said in mock defense.
"You could try a shorter coat," Rose chuckled.
"Oi! What's wrong with my coat? I like this coat."
"You're gonna be tripping on it."
He did, but he didn't seem to care. Eventually he got the hang of it again anyway and Rose could tell he really did know what he was doing. She was only all right at ice skating herself. She managed when she was on her own, and it was more fun watching the Doctor experimenting with old skills anyhow.
"I can't believe it's been so long since I've done this!" he hooted. "Come on, Rose! You can do better than that!"
"I was never very athletic, really. Closest I got was running around with you!" she called.
"And a brilliant job you did of it, too!"
The Doctor sped up to her, grinning. He reached out for her arms and took them spinning, but it went out of control after a moment and they slammed into each other. Their breath knocked out, they clung to each other to stay upright and when they could breathe again they were laughing.
They didn't move right away. It was too comfortable to be so close. Rose looked up into the Doctor's face, and it was good to see him so happy. Still, that indefinable heaviness was all but always there no matter how widely he smiled. He looked into her eyes and she could see the age in his. There had been times, in the old days, when she'd caught glimpses of it…but never like this. Since she'd come back this time it seemed so much more clear. Worse.
The doctor didn't seem to quite expect it when she touched his cheek, and kept him looking at her.
"Why do you seem so much older?" she asked gently. "You're the one who wasn't supposed to age."
She suspected she already knew the answer. After all, John had aged—aged physically. He'd already got a bit of gray hair about the temples when he…died. But he'd never looked like this—like the Doctor looked now. Maybe it was because her John Smith had her.
The Doctor's mouth opened and closed once or twice more before anything came out of it, like he didn't want to say anything. He didn't want to worry her. She knew that. She understood that, but he needed to say it.
"I…I've been alone, Rose," he answered finally. They were still holding each other up, and he was suddenly clinging more tightly. "The last time I saw you…I lost everything that day. The cells in this body haven't aged but it doesn't mean I haven't."
Rose shook her head, not understanding. "I knew the others went their separate ways, but…what about Donna? I thought she'd be here. When she wasn't…but I've been afraid to ask."
The Doctor looked away, swallowing. "It was the meta-crisis. She started out human, and it gave her the mind of a Time Lord but it didn't change her physiology. At least, not enough. She couldn't handle it for long. It would have killed her."
As he spoke the momentary happiness continued to drain away. She could see on his face what the last few months here had been for him. She hated to do this now, but after everything he was doing for her she wanted to help him if she could. She couldn't do that if he wouldn't talk to her, and if he was going to talk now she was going to let him.
"I couldn't undo what had been done. The only way to save her was to bury the Time Lord part of her mind." He grimaced. "And anything that might lead her to it. Anything about me, or the Tardis, or time and space…all of it."
"So…she doesn't remember any of it. She's just…who she was before."
"Basically. I think she seemed a little different, maybe, than when I met her…she's doing better than she was, I hope…but she'll never know why."
"I'm so sorry…" She didn't know how else to react to that. She hated it. The brief time she'd met Donna she'd seemed like just the sort of friend the Doctor needed. Someone to keep him on his toes; someone to keep him happy and help him keep perspective and keep him from being alone. Rose had envied Donna when the Tardis faded from that beach, but she hadn't resented her. The Doctor needed someone even if it couldn't be her, and in Donna he had someone.
Except that he didn't.
Then she had another thought. "John didn't tell me. He would have known that was going to happen…" Her husband told her stories, of what she'd missed those two years she was gone and his past before that. But she realized when he mentioned Donna it always seemed as if there was something he wasn't saying.
"Probably," the Doctor admitted with a sigh. "And he probably just…didn't want you to worry about me, I suppose."
"I worried about you anyway."
"Then he knew that, and he didn't want to make it worse. I'd have done the same, if it were me."
Her eyes filled, and she punched his arm. "Well damn you both!" In her skates, the impact pushed her away from him. She ignored the yelp from the Doctor, maneuvered an angry turn and tried to start back toward the Tardis.
"Rose!" He came after her, but he hadn't stabilized. He reached for her arm from behind, but when he had it he faltered and they both went down because she didn't quite have her own balance, either. They landed on the ice in a tangle of arms and legs, and that was when the tears came. She didn't want to be doing this now, either, but she was crying and he held her.
"I'm sorry." He said it more than once, and she didn't really know what he was apologizing for anymore. She didn't think he knew, either.
The Doctor—the man who took her away from her meaningless life and made it better. Made her better even as she did the same for him. And John Smith—her human husband. Her own Doctor. Both of them, always protecting her; sometimes in ways she'd have rather they didn't. Loving her to a fault.
Then again, maybe she'd done the same thing, coming here. She'd done it because she loved them both. She wasn't sorry but she couldn't tell herself it hadn't been rash even knowing the chance never would have come again. She'd tried to reason it away the day she'd done it but she knew now there was no reasoning to it.
"I'm sorry," the Doctor said once more.
"Stop," Rose managed finally. "Stop apologizing." She scrubbed at her face. "Look, I'm sorry I just…barged in and all, but—"
"No, it's all right, you—"
"Shut up, Doctor. Listen to me. I know neither of us really expected any of this, but we've been through enough…we know each other enough we can be honest, yeah? So honestly…" She let out a shaky breath. "I'm not all right. Not yet. I'm not all right at all, but I don't think you are, either. You like to say you're always all right but it's really just code for you're really, really not. Especially now."
He looked at her for a moment. With his fingers and the sleeve of his brown coat he dried some of the tears on her face she'd missed, and he sighed. "Donna said that to me once." He shook his head. "And…you're right. I'm not all right," he said eventually. He looked her in the eyes again. "If it's honesty you want…then right now I think I need you just as much as you need me.
She nodded slowly, because it wasn't anything she hadn't expected. "There," she said quietly. "See? Wasn't so bad to say it, was it?"
The sound that came from the Doctor in answer was something stuck halfway between a laugh and a sob. But he smiled weakly, and pulled her close again. She had no argument.
He held onto her for a long time. It occurred to her after a while that if it were the old days or if it were John he might have said something. He would have said "my Rose," or something on the order of it, even if it were just a murmur she may or may not have been expected to hear. But the Doctor didn't say it now.
Rose knew he still felt the same way about her, even if this him had never said it. But she was beginning to wonder if it was more than just the fact that he could never age with her that kept him from saying it. She was beginning to wonder if her marriage to his human counterpart—or the pregnancy?—was somehow between them. At least in his mind.
No matter what it was, she knew they would be all right as long as they had each other. They could help each other; they would get through this.
But he didn't say anything else, and it broke her heart a little.
Rose Tyler. The girl who always knew what to say was a woman now. And she still always knew what to say.
The Doctor helped her to her feet and they retreated into the Tardis.
"Hot cup of chocolate, maybe?" he suggested.
"Yeah," Rose agreed with a grateful nod. She looked back longingly at the purple ice and green sky outside before the door had closed. "Do we have to leave, though?"
"Not if you don't want to. We could give it another go tomorrow."
She smiled a little. "Yeah. I'd like that."
So they did. They stayed in that night—hot chocolate and a couch in a corner of the library and films from the database on a screen half the size of the one blank wall. Rose fell asleep on his shoulder and the Doctor stayed where he was and let her sleep there.
They went back out onto the ice the next day, and they didn't stop there. Maybe it was because they understood each other a little better now—the selves they were now, after everything that had happened to them while they were apart. They understood a little more, even if they didn't have everything straight. Even if they never would, it didn't matter.
They ran, and it was easier—like before. They went places he hadn't been able to show her before and they went back to places they'd been. They went back to a few decades after the year five billion to check on Nurse Hame a few years after the Doctor and Martha had last been there. Hame was happy to see Rose again.
"Oh! And did I tell you, Rose? It turns out the Face of Boe may or may not have actually been Jack Harkness all along. Seeing that he can't die and everything…makes a certain sort of sense."
"We could find out for sure, you know."
"Nah…why spoil it? Actually, I don't really want to know for sure…"
Strangely enough, there was no trouble…at least not there. They still found their share of it elsewhere, though.
"Never can have a normal week, can we, Doctor? Normal day we can do every now and again…few days even. Whole normal week just seems too much to ask, though."
"Well it was always that way."
"Yeah…having a human you without a Tardis still didn't really change that much. We could get a normal week, sure, but that was about it. Well…actually once or twice we may have had a whole normal month."
"Must have been awful. Far too boring."
"Would it be bad for me to say from the way you talk sometimes now that I can definitely tell who you've spent the last few years married to?"
"You rub off on people. Any you. I'm well aware; doesn't bother me, no."
They laughed. Except when they didn't. But that was all right, too. Some days began and Rose didn't emerge from her room. On most of those days the Doctor let her be, because he knew sometimes she needed that. Other days she did come out, but it was clear they wouldn't be going anywhere else that day. But either of those kinds of days were few and far between compared to the good ones. He supposed that had to be as good a sign as any.
"I really should find a doctor though…got to have this baby somewhere, eventually."
It was the end of a day that hadn't been bad, really, but they had stayed in. They'd spent it in the library, on the huge couch in front of the even larger screen in a back alcove. Out in the main section of the library the ceiling soared more than two stories above their heads—two floors of books and other things, shelves and corridors and beautiful wooden molding that didn't look like it belonged on a spaceship. But their alcove was small and hidden, warm and cozy; the closest thing to a small den the Tardis had.
"Actually, there's probably half a dozen dens somewhere just like there's dozens of bedrooms and other things that are never used, but it'd take forever to find one," he'd told her once. It was only the truth, too.
"That's ridiculous, you know—that your own ship is so big you don't know the half of it," Rose laughed.
"Yeah. Welcome to my life."
Right now they were each ensconced into either end of the couch. They'd been talking for hours. The Doctor realized it had been a long, long time since he'd been content to sit still for so long, and to do it on a repeated basis.
"I don't suppose I can just find one in Cardiff, though—at least not in the century I was born in, anyhow. I'm dead there, legally."
"The psychic paper could take care of that."
"I know. But it's still not a good idea, is it?"
The Doctor made an apologetic face. "No…not really."
"We'll find somewhere. I've always stood by the 51st century, if nothing else. Some of the best hospitals in human history, they've got."
"Why does that matter? I'm pregnant; I don't have some exotic disease," she teased.
"No, but you're carrying a child who had a dad with suppressed Time Lord genetic code. Now, as far I know everything should be fine, but it's still something that's never exactly happened before. Keeping both of you safe is my responsibility now, and I want to be sure you'll be in good hands."
Rose reached for one of his hands and squeezed it. "I am," she smiled.
The Doctor let out an uneasy breath. "I'm glad you think so."
She gave him her best don't-put-yourself-down-like-that look as she climbed off the couch. "I didn't come here to force you into any responsibility, you know."
"I know. I'm the one who decided I wanted to take it on. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?"
"No. 'Course not." She swallowed, and leaned in briefly to kiss his forehead as she passed him. "Thank you. Anyway…I'm going to bed. We can figure it out tomorrow."
The next morning they agreed that neither of them really had a better idea, so the 51st century it was. They stopped at a hospital in the 51st century, made an appointment, and skipped straight to it.
Sitting in that waiting room Rose realized, all over again, just how lucky she was. Her life had been hard at times, so far…but it had been a life, and with any luck it wasn't anywhere near to over. She'd seen so much. She'd been born in the 20th century and was probably going to give birth three thousand years in the future to a child not quite, exactly all human. The child of a man she'd loved with all her heart, and who'd loved her just as much in return.
Maybe he was gone now, and it hurt. It wasn't what she'd pictured in her future not so long ago now. It wasn't perfect, and this part of her story…this part, losing her husband…it was awful.
But her life wasn't all awful. It was wonderful, really. She had so much more than most people did, in the century she'd been born to.
If she'd never met the Doctor she'd have spent the rest of her life working in a shop. She wouldn't trade the last ten years of her life for anything.
When they called her name the Doctor had to nudge her to get her attention. She got up, but he didn't. She stared at him, and his eyebrows went up.
"Come on, then."
"Well I thought I should just...stay here…"
Rose held out a hand to him and repeated herself. "Come on."
There was a sound of protest. "Rose…" It was that warning tone, and she knew what he was going to say.
"I know." He was going to say it again—that he wasn't John. He was her guardian, a friend, a companion, someone who cared about her, yes…but he wasn't John. He wasn't her husband. "I know," Rose said quietly. "But John's not here, and neither is my mum, or anyone else." She took a breath. "I need you."
She really did. John wasn't here, and knowing made it harder. It hurt, and she didn't know if she could get through this without someone at her side.
He understood. She saw it in his eyes when he understood what she meant.
"Okay," he agreed quietly. He nodded a little, and took her hand.
Rose had been with him for nearly three months on the night they lay in the grass on Faridia III. The breeze whistled and the grass sang. His coat was spread beneath them and the planet's stunning auroras danced above them in the night sky.
"I wish we could just stay here," Rose sighed.
"We can stay as long as you like."
"We have to go shopping soon, though. I need new clothes. I hate shopping."
"What? You're female, and you were born in the twentieth century; that's not normal."
"To hate shopping?"
"As far as I know."
"I didn't always. I used to be normal, before you came along, thank you very much."
"Oi! Don't blame me for your weird, Rose Tyler," the Doctor grinned.
"Blame you? You are my weird."
"I am your—? Blimey, I think we've lost the grammar on this one."
"Probably. Completely gone," Rose laughed. "That's not the point."
"I know that's not the point. Wait, why do you need new clothes?"
"That's the point. Look at me." They were flat on their backs, holding hands between them, but with the free one she pointed at her no-longer-flat stomach.
The Doctor looked at her sidelong. "Right. I knew that."
She laughed again, and he was happy. He was really, properly happy. He didn't know how long it could last, but he didn't want to think about that anymore. It didn't matter. He never thought he'd have this at all, and now he did. It was worth living in the moment, for that.
I'm not all right at all, but I don't think you are, either. You like to say you're always all right but it's really just code for you're really, really not. Especially now.
Well. At least now both of them were a little closer.
"Weeeell, all right. If we must shop, where do you want to do it?"
"Somewhere they do it for me, maybe? Long as they do it right. I said I hate shopping; I didn't say I don't want to look good."
"You always look good." He said it before he'd thought it through, and realized too late maybe it was a bit much. Just because he meant it didn't mean he should really have said it. It wasn't really his place now. He thought she should have protested, but she didn't. The moment passed, she laughed, and that was all.
No, the trouble came several minutes later. Rose stopped in the middle of a conversation that really had nothing to do with anything. She froze, shot a glance down at the their hands clasped between them, and snatched hers away and clamored to her feet in an instant.
"Rose? What's wrong?"
She didn't answer. She ran back into the Tardis, and he could hear the sob that broke free as she fled.
The Doctor jumped up, gathered his coat and ran after her. She was almost across the control room when he made it inside, tossed the coat over the nearest strut and went to her. "Rose? What happened; what's wrong?" he asked again. She'd stopped at the farthest railing, bent over it and sobbing now, and he hoped to god it was nothing he had done.
He reached out, but he didn't really know yet if he should. "Rose?" he asked anxiously. Sometimes it was hard to tell.
She held up a hand over her shoulder. "I-It's fine; it's not your fault. I'm sorry. I'm fine. I'm sorry…"
The Doctor waited, because he didn't know what else to do. It took another long minute or two, but finally Rose turned into him and accepted his embrace. When she seemed calmer, quiet against his chest, he tried the question again.
"What happened?" he asked gently.
She took a step back, composing herself. She was clutching a hand to her chest, and it took him a moment to make the connection that it was the one he'd been holding just a few minutes ago.
His chest started to ache.
"It's not your fault," she said again. "You didn't know what you were doing. It shouldn't have even—I mean, I shouldn't have gotten upset. I'm sorry. It just…hit me again, I guess. Bad timing. Stupid hormones…"
She trailed off and tried to laugh, but it didn't quite work. The Doctor still didn't understand, so he let her go on. He tried to remember what he'd been doing at the moment she froze, but they'd just been lying there. They'd just been there, watching the aurora and talking.
Rose shook her head—more at herself, it seemed, than anything. She was still holding her hand to her chest. "My hand," she explained quietly. "Your thumb. You were just…makin' circles. And-and it's not like you never did that before, I just…didn't really notice. But for John and me…it meant something. Somehow it ended up meanin' something, and we didn't really talk it, it just did. And then you did it, and I don't know how long it took me to notice, and then I did I just—" She cut off and shook her head again. "It's silly. Stupid. I know. I'm sorry."
"It's not stupid. Never stupid." He took a deep breath, and it hurt. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"'S all right…you didn't know, or anything." Slowly she dropped the hand she held to herself. For a moment she looked as if she might be all right, but then she sobbed once more and the hand came back up to her face now. "Oh god, I miss him."
"I know." The Doctor swallowed and pulled her close again. "I know."
He expected to stand there for a while, holding her, and he was perfectly willing to do it. It had been a while now, since something like this had happened. But sometimes it still did, and he understood. If there was one thing he understood, it was grief. Loss. God knew he understood that.
He didn't expect Rose to push up on her toes and press a kiss to his lips. Then again, another part of him had seen it coming. Not in this moment, but generally. He'd been afraid of that. Her husband was dead, and the Doctor had the same face. Nine hundred and three years or so of the same memories, too.
The fact of how he felt about her himself didn't help.
"Nnnngh…" Protest burbled at the back of his throat. But it wasn't just a kiss, either. She'd reached behind his head to pull him down, and he had to pry her arms down to disengage her. "Rose…!"
She dropped back on her heels and stared up at him, her arms awkwardly halfway in the air where he'd tugged them away, and neither of them could really breathe. "What?" she managed.
"Rose, no. Just…I'm sorry, but no." It was even more difficult to say than he'd thought it would be.
"Why not?" she questioned, almost desperately. "Why can't you just—?"
"You're in mourning. This isn't right. I look like him, Rose. That's all. I just look like him."
"You know it's more than that."
"It doesn't matter. It's wrong."
He released a painful breath. Everything became the familiar sort of blur that told him his eyes were no longer dry. "Please…you're only making this harder for us both. Please." He couldn't do this. If this lasted much longer he'd give in, and it wouldn't be right.
It wasn't really him she wanted anymore.
Rose let her arms fall to her sides. Her face fell, too, and she was quiet. She didn't say a word as she walked away, and the Doctor was relatively certain that she took both of his hearts with her as she disappeared around the corner.
She heard him follow her to her room, but she couldn't look at him. Not right now. She retreated inside and hit the door lock with maybe a little too much force. The door slid closed behind her and she sank back against it.
Rose lowered herself to the floor there and she just sat, because she didn't know what to think anymore.
Everything in her ached. Everything in her missed John. Loved him. Wanted him here. But here…here she had the Doctor. The first one. The one she'd loved from the beginning. She still loved him, so much, but now…
At least it made sense, now. He loved her. She knew he did. She saw it in his eyes again when he begged her not to kiss him. But he must really think that loving John somehow meant she couldn't love him anymore. It didn't make any sense. As long as he'd lived, he should know someone could love more than one person. Maybe he told himself that, but really he was just afraid because he was still a Time Lord. He still couldn't give her, or himself, or anyone else with him a normal life.
Still…part of him had to believe it.
He wasn't entirely wrong, either. It was still far too soon, really. She shouldn't have done what she did, not yet, but that didn't mean it wasn't sincere.
She'd complicated things too soon. She could admit that.
But she couldn't do this alone.
Rose could hear the Doctor, on the other side of the door. She heard it when he sat down himself, just on the other side. She heard him sigh. She twisted enough to press her forehead to the door, and she could almost feel him. It wasn't the first time. It was because she knew him, so well. They were connected. They always would be, no matter what stood between them.
This time, it wasn't dimensions that separated them. But there was still a wall, and it was always something. Why was it always something? Why couldn't the universe leave them in peace?
Well, as long as he was here. As long as she'd thrown simplicity to the wind anyway…
"I do still love you," she said to the door. "I've loved you since I was nineteen years old, you idiot. Did you think I'd stop just because I learned to love someone else, too? It's not…transference, you ridiculous, thick—"
And then something changed. Something shifted, around her. A crackle of energy and the bedroom was gone and the floor was suddenly colder and there were vertical bars behind her instead of a door. They were just far enough apart, though, that her first sensation was of slipping back, just a fraction. There was a surprised grunt behind her and between the bars another warm back fell against hers.
All of it lasted just a second or two, and then Rose was gasping and twisting the rest of the way round, and it was the Doctor behind her—just as shocked as she was, by the way—but they were separated by the bars.
It was always something.