'Don't be alone Doctor.'
The Doctor stared at the crinkled page clutched in his hand. Unfolded for the umpteenth time in the last two hours. Staring at those words, reading them over again and again. 'Don't be alone...' If she knew what she was asking... if she knew the pain her words would inflict, would she have written them anyway? Yes. They all did. All of them. It was a command that seemed to echo through his life. 'Don't be alone. Find someone. You need someone with you.' They were all the same, and everyone told him, no matter how well they knew him, no matter for how long, the demand was the same. Don't be alone.
What if he wanted to be alone? Shouldn't he get a say? It was his life wasn't it? He actually chuckled a bit at that, despite the empty place in his chest. Because it wasn't, really... He'd never had much say, there was always someone or something telling him what to do, telling him how things should go. Oh he put up a good bluff. 'I'm the Doctor I'm in charge of the universe.' Ha! More like the universe was in charge of him. Always had been. His life was ruled by circumstance, the circumstance of the universe. He'd never really decided anything had he? It had all been circumstance. Showing up at a certain time, in a certain place, meeting a certain person, hearing a certain bit of chatter.
He'd made a show of trying to control things, tried to stay away from people and their feelings and 'domestics', tried not to marry River, tried to rewrite history for the good of everyone. He'd been stumped every time. It made him wonder sometimes what he'd done to get the universe to hate him. And then he'd remember. 'Oh, that's right. I killed the Time Lords...'
He heard the Tardis thrum at him, trying to wake him up, trying to entice him to go to places and times he'd already been four times at least. She rolled out tables of fish fingers and custard, entreating him to eat, which usually meant he'd been sitting for a few days without moving... for a Lord of Time it had a funny way of getting away from him. He supposed he ought to eat something... if only for the sake of appeasing his old ship...he lurched up right, swaying over to the offering of food. But... he just... didn't want to eat... wasn't in the mood for fish fingers, didn't want to sit through the memories their taste would stir. Didn't want to think of a dingy little table strewn with bread and cold bacon, sitting across from a little girl and her tub of ice cream. Or being sandwiched between a warm and familiar pair of bodies on a comfortable couch chatting about york shire pudding and days way past.
He didn't really want to think of anything, to be honest. Not the past, not the future, his friends or his enemies, or all the things he'd suffered from because of them. He wanted...for this moment, just this one moment as long as the universe would allow him, to be happy. To think of happy things and not have to hide behind frivolous thoughts, not have to wear the mask he put on for everyone, including himself. He wanted to have memories that didn't burn through his chest with every careless revisiting. Wanted to be able to hum or whistle without using it as a shield against his own heartache.
He wanted to feel like he had nine hundred years ago, back when he'd taken Susan to school and meeting Ian and Barbra had been strange and forbidden and sharing the universe with humans was new and exciting and didn't promise to end with pain and loss. Wanted to go back to the end of the war and die with the rest of his people like he should have... wanted to sod off and leave the universe to fend for itself. But he couldn't. He knew he couldn't. Not only would the universe forbid it, but so would the guilt... and the people he would think of as he let the world burn.
It was about then that he noticed that he'd been wandering. He had a habit of doing that he noticed, when he was thinking too hard... and unfortunately he'd wandered to a place he'd been avoiding for the last three centuries. A place he'd thought the Tardis had hidden from him for good after the first six months, after he'd told Rose good bye. He folded himself around the pain that erupted in his chest at the thought of her. Tears flowed instantly down his cheeks at the memory of her good bye, her choice, each gasp of breath sent new flutterings of pain through his arms, his fingers, the very tips of his toes.
Rose. His Rose Tyler. Except she wasn't, had never been. Even then the universe was conspiring against him. Even then Canary Wharf and Bad Wolf Bay were waiting unseen in his future. He ran a hand down the door, imagining the scent of Rose Tyler still lingered on the wood. Imagined that she was sleeping in there, tangled in her sheets, exhausted after a good adventure. Imagined, for a fraction of a moment, that he was a happier man decked out in pinstripes and trainers, that Pet€e's world was nothing but a world beyond the void and not the final resting place of his centre of gravity. His Rose Tyler. Imagined for that moment, that she was his Rose Tyler, that the universe was going to leave her for him, give him their forever together, give him the time to work up to the words that really would have saved his life. He squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his forehead against the door, imagining for a moment that she could here him, that it wasn't too late.
"I love you Rose Tyler." he drew in a long breath, holding himself tighter against the wood. "I love you." he could taste the salt of his own tears against his lips as he tried to pull away, tried to let go, again, and fade back into the mad man he was supposed to be. But he couldn't. His hand had fastened to the knob and wouldn't let go. He'd told Amelia Pond that he had never had cravings before...rule one. How often had he craved Rose Tyler? Craved her touch, her smell, some small taste of her pink lips, craved the very sight of her? Even now. Standing outside a room that hadn't been opened for longer then his eleventh body had been alive he yearned for her. Yearned for the feel of her hand in his, the pressure of her body against his chest as they held each other, that glorious musical sound of her laugh as they ran together through the dangers of distant worlds. More then anything he yearned to bring his lips down against hers, as he had never allowed himself, and revel in the sensation of her mouth on his as his hands tangled in hair that was softer then the silks of Persia, and he whispered a litany of hidden feelings, told her everything he ever should have in a deluge of desperate words. How he needed her, treasured her, worshipped her, how he loved her more then the universe!
The creaking of the door as it opened slowly brought him from his regretful longings and he stared teary eyed at what had once been his second favorite place in all the known galaxies, aside from the console room itself, Rose Tyler's bedroom.
It looked exactly as it had after the battle of Canary Wharf, after he'd lost her the first time. Laundry thrown over the bed posts and scattered across the floor, her blankets rumpled, pillows crooked, a book lying open on top of them, magazines spilling from under the bed. His feet made no sound as he drifted further into the room. Posters of twentieth century pop stars covered the majority of the walls, the cupboards were open on the entertainment centre, the DVD screen saver still going, an empty plastic case lying open and empty atop the radio. The loo door stood gaping, a long evening dress hanging down it's front, tiny sequins flashing. That's right. He'd promised her a fancy dinner that night. Promised to take her dancing on Venus during the migration of the Venusion Fire Bird. Promised she could wear her heels because nothing would go wrong. No running, no enemies, just the two of them, a few flutes of Venusion champagne, the open sky, stars, and the flashing gossamer colors of the Fire Birds in wing. He shook his head, running a hand through his drying eyes, just another in a long line of broken promises. Just another Barcelona.
"Rose... oh, Rose, I was going to show you so much." he turned beseeching eyes to the ceiling, though what he was asking for he couldn't be sure. He stumbled to the bed, kicking free of his shoes and tearing away his tweed and bow tie, suddenly feeling more exhausted then he had in twelve hundred years. He curled into a ball in the centre of that empty room, burying his nose into sheets that no longer smelled of anything but dust and empty space, silent tears running down his face even after sleep had claimed him.