A/N: Hello dear readers. I want to thank those of you who have been faithfully following this series since day one and also happily greet those of you who are new to the series. This story took me a long time to complete as it is the longest fic I've ever written and by far the longest in this series. I am very eager to share with you all the exciting things that lay ahead for our beloved Rose and Doctor.
Many of you have had questions (i.e. Is there a reason why Rose is so good at telepathy? How will Rose's mortality affect their bond in the future? Will they EVER kiss?) and I have endeavored to answer all of those questions in this final installment. I have loved writing this story and I hope you will love reading it.
Rose pulled her dressing gown tighter around her as the cold night air briefly blew by her. It was really too cool to be out but that wasn't enough reason to move her from her spot sitting on the edge of one of the fountains that inhabited the garden behind the Tyler mansion. This was her favorite place on this earth, probably the only spot in it that she actually took any pleasure in, and she especially enjoyed it when it was like it was at this moment. It was late and almost completely silent on the grounds around her and she closed her eyes and breathed deeply, enjoying the peace and solitude despite the bite in the air.
She opened her eyes and her gaze fixed on the stars in the sky above her. They were so bright and clear and once her eyes were on them she couldn't find a reason to draw them away. She had never been able to see them from her home on the estate; the lights of the city had been much too bright for that. But here, on the outskirts of town, they were quite visible. The sight of them now was both encouraging and discouraging all in one.
She could look at them and it was the closest she ever came to feeling connected to her real life, the one she'd lost. She belonged in the stars; she was meant to travel among them. They comforted her and often times being out here with them made her feel more alive than she did at any other time in this new universe. But looking at them also made her sad. These were not her stars. These were not the stars that she had been to. She didn't know these stars or what they contained like she did of those in her own universe. Most disappointing of all about these particular stars, was that she knew the Doctor wasn't among them. She couldn't look at them and know he was out there somewhere.
She had been in this world and separated from the Doctor for eight months now. She could see the time passing by like a stopwatch inside of her head. She always knew that the seconds were passing and growing into minutes, into hours, into days, into weeks, and months. At any given time she could know exactly how much time had passed while they were apart. She knew their separation was wrong, that their timeline should be joined and that was probably why she felt the passage of their solitary time so potentially. Most of the time she did her best to silent that mental clock and tried her hardest not to dwell on it. She didn't want to think about how much time they had spent away from each other.
But in those moments when she did really think about the length of time that had passed she just couldn't believe it. Sometimes, she felt like the time should have been much longer than that. Every day in this world seemed to drag on for so long. She wasn't meant to be here and she felt the weight of the time spent here so heavy upon her. For all that she had gone through it seemed it should have been much longer than a mere eight months. At other times, it seemed it couldn't be possible that so many months had passed. Eight months was such a long time and, while it hadn't passed by quickly to her, it just seemed wrong that she should have spent so much time here.
She would have thought she'd feel better the longer she was here but the very opposite was true. With every passing month she felt herself getting more antsy and distraught. She felt the burden of time as it grew and every day the pressure to find a way out was stronger in her. She felt worse and more upset with herself every day that ended without a solution to their problem.
Nights were the hardest though. During the day she could work and keep busy. During the day she could feel useful and try to figure out a way to get back to the Doctor. But at night she had to slow down. She had to return to a house that, though it contained her family, did not feel like home to her. It was a strange world she was living in and at night when she was at home she felt that strongly. The nights were quiet and lonely and she felt the loss of the Doctor then more than at any other time. She longed for nothing more than to end those long and exhausting days deep inside of his mind.
Sleep also brought frustration with it. Even on the good nights, when sleep came to her without a fight and didn't terrorize her with frightening dreams, she still woke with disappointment. Three months ago, on Christmas Day to be exact, the Doctor had visited her in a dream. He had been able to connect with her in her sleep so that they were actually able to talk across the universes that separated them. Though they still hadn't been together physically they had been able to have a real conversation and that had meant so much. Every night when she went to sleep she hoped it might be the night when he would reach her again. But that day remained the one and only time that he had been able to get to her.
She knew that it had been difficult for the Doctor to achieve and that there were many things that had to line up in order for it to happen. She knew it was unlikely to happen again and she shouldn't hope for it. Logically, she knew all of that but in her heart she did still hope for it. Sometimes, she tried to convince herself she wasn't holding on to that but when she awoke with a sinking feeling in her heart after another night passed and it hadn't happened, she knew she was still hoping it would happen again.
She wrapped her arms around herself as the wind got particularly cold. Despite her loneliness at the moment, with her arms wrapped around herself she couldn't help but smile as she remembered the way the Doctor used to hold her in his arms. She felt herself warming on the inside as she recalled memories of the way he'd hold her after they'd touched minds. Focusing on the memory she could almost feel the care and love he'd projected as he held her in his arms and eased his mind off of hers. She ached to feel those moments when his arms were around her and, even though they had finished, his mind still lingered with her. She let herself dwell on the memory and remember how content she'd been in those moments following those special times they had spent in each other's minds.
"Mind if I join you?"
Rose was shaken out of her private wonderings by the voice of Pete Tyler behind her. She turned around to find him walking towards her holding two mugs in his hands. She blushed at the memory she'd been dwelling on and felt a slight stab of protest in her mind as she abandoned it for the moment.
"Sure," she said putting on a small smile as she eased her arms from around herself. He offered one of the mugs to her and she glanced inside to find hot chocolate and her smile grew to a more genuine one.
Pete smiled back as he sat down beside of her. "Jackie woke up with a craving. She just had to have some hot chocolate. Of course, by the time I got back she was already asleep again. Then I saw you were out here again and thought you might enjoy it."
Rose smiled. "I do. Thank you," she said taking a sip.
"Did you have another nightmare?" he asked.
Rose looked down into the mug as she answered. "Yeah. I hope I didn't disturb you."
"No, not at all. I could sleep through practically anything. Jackie usually has to whack me pretty hard when she needs to wake me."
Rose gave a slight smile and then was silent. She knew he was just being kind. The nightmares had woken him and Jackie several times when she'd first started having them. It was only now that the two of them had gotten so accustomed to them that could sleep through Rose's distressed cries.
Every night she crawled into bed hoping that this would be the night the Doctor would manage to come to her again in her sleep. But to her dismay it was often nightmares that waited on her instead. Often times, she couldn't even remember them upon waking but they still left a terrible impression. There was no way to explain the reason for them and she figured that it was probably a symptom of her broken bond. She had somehow learned to live with the sleep disturbances but it had been hard for everyone in the beginning. Jackie and Pete had woken several times in the beginning and had worried where these terrors were coming from. But they had learned to sleep through them and Rose had learned to deal with them on her own.
"Bring back a lot of memories? Looking up there?" Pete asked pointing towards the stars, to break the silence that was between them.
"Yeah," Rose said full of fond remembrance and longing.
"Traveling among the stars," Pete marveled. "How amazing is that?"
"It was amazing," Rose agreed with a sad smile.
"But it makes you sad too? Thinking of him doesn't it?"
Despite determining to have mastery over her emotions there was an immediate catch in her throat. A slight stir also went quickly through her mind but she remained strong. She wasn't going to dwell on thoughts of the Doctor that would upset her mind right now and she certainly wasn't going to cry in front of Pete. She swallowed and paused before answering.
"Yeah," she said simply.
"You'll get back to him. I know you will," he said confidently. "We have a lot of hopes for the dimension cannon. I know the success has not happened as soon as you would like but we will get it to work. It's already shown a lot of progress."
"Thanks," she said looking down.
Pete fell silent. He could see that she was getting upset and she knew that he didn't know what to do or say. She tried to keep it all under wraps the best she could because she knew that no one really knew how to deal with what she was going through. She didn't expect people to understand; there was no way they could. It wasn't their fault they didn't know what was going on and she wasn't upset that she had to conceal so much of it.
"You're right. I know you are," she added with a smile, sounding much braver than she really felt.
He smiled and even though she could tell that she hadn't really fooled him she knew that he was relieved to be able to move past it. Their relationship was still not a very strong one. They had only recently passed feeling like strangers around each other and were still far from being able to talk about personal or upsetting things like these.
She still longed to call him Dad but she never did, not after that first time she had when her and the Doctor been visiting this universe. He'd not been able to handle it then and she had not attempted it a second time. The Doctor had tried to warn her of that when they'd first arrived in this universe. He was right, of course, but she hadn't listened. Pete's rejection had really hurt. She knew he hadn't meant for it to come across that way but that's the way it felt. She knew it wasn't his fault; she wasn't his daughter. He'd never had a child and so it was only natural that he would have a hard time accepting her as one. She really was trying to work on not holding it against him but it was hard to forget.
But for all that she knew to be true it still didn't stop her own feelings. She'd had a dad once and Pete looked exactly like him. She knew he wasn't the same man but she wanted the second chance at having a father. Getting to know him better was one of the only good things she felt she could gain from being here but she hadn't even been able to have that. She hated feeling so distant when she really could use some comfort.
Pete stood up to leave. It almost seemed like he wanted to say something more or maybe even reach out to her. But whatever she saw there quickly passed. "Try not to stay out here too long, alright?" he said.
"Alright," she promised and she was once again left alone. As she looked up at the stars she felt lonelier than she ever had. It wasn't just a normal loneliness. She now understood what the Doctor had been talking about on that night that seemed like such a long time ago. This was the loneliness of the mind, the deepest loneliness possible, that he had spoken of then. It was a complete aloneness that touched every part of her. And it made her afraid because she knew that if she never saw the Doctor again it was a feeling that would stay with her for the rest of her life.
The Doctor placed his hand on what appeared to be just another spot on the wall of the TARDIS corridor but only he knew that it wasn't. He let it linger there for a moment before he reached for the knob he couldn't see and opened the door to let himself in.
The Doctor stood in the entrance of Rose's old room and stared at it for a long moment. It looked exactly as it had when she'd last left it. He'd put a time lock on it so that it would remain frozen in time so even though eight months had passed everything was eerily the same as when she had been here. Time, in this room only, hadn't moved since that terrible day.
He hadn't set foot in this room since that last morning they had awoke here and left together. He had refused to come back inside when he'd returned that day by himself. As he stared at it all now he began to wonder if this was really a good idea; he hadn't attempted this sooner because he wasn't sure he could stand it. It had taken him this long just to gain enough energy just to try, to make him think he might be able to bear it. He was less certain about that now than he had ever been but that did not stop him from walking further and further into the room.
This room had at one time been a mystery to him. For most of the time Rose had been with him he had not entered this room. But in the weeks leading up to her departure he'd become quite familiar with it. He'd spent every night here with her in those last few weeks, ever since that night they'd glimpsed the future, the future they feared would separate them. That night she had asked him to stay with her. He'd gladly agreed that night and had returned every night after that.
After running about all day they would always end here spending time inside of each other's minds until late. Rose never wanted to sleep at the end of those long days. She always fought it as long as she could but she couldn't escape the fact that she had to have at least some sleep every night. She hadn't wanted to waste one minute of their time so when she'd had to give into the fatigue she'd ask him to stay. She'd not needed to ask; she couldn't have made him leave for all the universe.
Nothing happened in the physical sense as humans would say. He'd had yet to even kiss her. Most of the time he just held her while she slept; he just wanted to be with her whether she was conscious or not. Eventually, he had gotten up his courage to ask her if he could listen in on her dreams while he was awake. She was a little shy about it but she agreed. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they made no sense at all, sometimes he found himself in them. A lot of the time he could just feel her drifting, peacefully and contented throughout sleep. On the nights when he'd had to sleep himself he had rested peacefully with her nestled against his side. That had been the best sleep he'd ever had in his long life.
The Doctor hadn't thought himself as much of a romantic or tender hearted but sometimes when he watched her sleep he'd almost felt he could cry. He just couldn't believe where he was and how happy he felt. Rose was so special and he couldn't believe she was his. He couldn't believe that someone like her had chosen to be with someone like him. She'd even decided to be with him in the way he needed the most and wanted to fall in love the way he was accustomed to. She was forever connected to him and he couldn't have imagined that life would be so wonderful to him that it would give her to him.
He would feel such an influx of emotions in those quiet moments as he watched her in sleep. It was a sensation he was unaccustomed to. He had always been more passionate and emotional than the rest of his species but he found himself even more so these days. He supposed it was a side effect of having a bond with a human. They were such a romantic people, so emotional; they were so very amazing. It was a privilege to be connected to the heart of one. He was so fortunate to find himself growing more and more like her as their time together continued.
He walked slowly over to Rose's bed, stopping to pick up her dressing gown off the floor on the way. He pressed it to his face and it still smelled exactly like her. He left the soft fabric against his face as memories flooded his mind. For a brief moment, it was almost as if she were right there. Thinking about her and the deceptive scent of her made her feel near and for a second, one beautiful second, he could forget she'd been taken from him. When he opened his eyes again and remembered his situation he felt the start of an ache in his mind and he knew coming here had been a mistake.
He should leave now. Indulging himself in this way was a waste of time and it could only end in pain for him. He never did this sort of thing for this very reason. He wanted to make every minute away from her useful and wallowing in his grief would do nothing to getting him back to her. He spent his nights alone working on finding a way to reach her. Trying to find a way to get her back was a useful way of spending his time. He fought off sleep for as long as he could but on those nights when he could no longer deprive his body rest he still tried to make it worthwhile. On the nights when he could not deny his body sleep he tried to reach her through his dreams. He had yet to achieve it again as he had on that Christmas Day but he never stopped trying.
But despite all those valid arguments against staying he didn't leave. He made his way to her bed and sat down on it instead. It was still unmade as she had left it. She never made it; she was always in too much of a hurry to get on with her day to worry about keeping her room tidy. It was a fact he was now glad for. He could almost see the way she had moved in the sheets by the creases left behind. He could almost see the way they'd been wrapped up together in them. He lay down on the bed and tilted his head to rest against the pillow with his nose buried in it. He breathed in deeply and the scent he found there was even better than the one he'd found wrapped in her clothes. Here he not only found her scent but his as well, the two mingled, speaking of the time they'd spent together.
His mind started to ache, started deep down inside of his head. The pain began small, deep down where he had pushed it, where he always made it stay, but it moved now trying to grow and push farther and farther out. He should have known that being around Rose's things and so many reminders of her would cause him to have such a reaction but he thought he could fight it. Now he wasn't so sure he could and, for once, he thought maybe it would be best if he didn't try to.
He clenched his eyes as pain seared his mind. It was white hot as it spread out through his mind. He suppressed his aching for her so much of the time that he knew he made it worse when he finally did give into it. Sometimes, he wondered how his mind even functioned at all with all the destruction it held. He could feel the gaping, ugly hole inside of his mind, left behind in her absence. The edges were still torn and jagged where she had suddenly been pulled away from him. It felt like it hadn't healed at all, in all of the days since he'd been separated from her. He knew it took time for that to happen. He had been through similar experiences and he knew that healing took a terrible amount of time and even then it never got completely better.
But this bond, this time with Rose, was different than anything that he'd ever experienced. Everything was different with her. He loved being with her because everything was like new when he was doing it with her. He could feel her changing him in a way that he'd never been changed through his bond with someone else. Everything about their bond had been different and it should be no surprise that the separation of it had also been just as different. He should have known it would be so. His bond with Rose had been so emotional and so deep despite the short length of it. That had made it all the better but that now made the separation all the worse.
What he was experiencing had been unusual for his people. With death virtually taken out of the equation people that were bonded were not usually ever separated. Of course, it did happen. His people were not immortal and sometimes they did die. He remembered that it had always been a terrible thing to see someone lose a person they were bonded to no matter what the relationship had been between them. But worst of all by far was seeing someone lose a romantic partner they were bonded to. That usually occurred at the end of a very long and shared life together but occasionally it would happen before a couple had been able to share their whole lives together, Most of those people had simply faded away. They never really had been able to survive that loss; it seemed to be a bigger than anyone could handle.
He had always known, all along, that his situation with Rose would be different than those he'd known before. He'd always known that he would lose her. She wasn't a Time Lord so he had always known he wouldn't be able to count on a nearly endless life between them. He wouldn't be able to hope that dreadful terrible end wouldn't come to them. He had known she would grow old and someday she would die. He had known her life would be over all too soon and he would be left to bear the loss of her and the bond they'd created between them.
He reminded himself of this now. He'd been so happy when they'd become bonded he hadn't wanted to think about the end. But he knew he had to think about it and consider it and he had. Hadn't he already accepted that he'd lose her? He'd had to in order to ever let himself be with her, hadn't he? He had accepted it, or at least as much as a person could accept such a terrible fact. It caused him great pain to think of losing her but he had accepted that burden in order to share the bond with her for as long as he was able.
But he had never counted on this. Their time was always going to be shorter than he wanted but he was still supposed to have had much longer with her than this. They were supposed to have more than the few precious months they'd spent bonded together. He'd found a way to accept her death and parting but that was really only because he thought it would be decades away. He hadn't been prepared to lose her after having only bonded with her for such a brief time and he wasn't coping with it very well at all.
The Doctor did something he didn't allow himself to do very often. He pulled the covers around himself and, wrapped up in the scent of them together and the memories of times they shared here, he allowed himself to fall apart. It was only in the secrecy of night with hours alone that he would allow himself this. He let the wave of pain come over him and it seemed to crack and fracture his mind. He let himself cry even though it made it worse because it also gave him the release he so often denied himself. He was too far gone to run from it this time so he let himself to succumb without a fight.
He let his mind reach for her even though he knew it wouldn't find her. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done it and he allowed it to reach and search as much as it desired. Eventually, it would come to realize what he already knew and it would stop its desperate search. He needed her touch so badly he wished that he could somehow find the impossible and reach her but he knew he wouldn't. The pain would ultimately subside but it would take a while. Until that happened, he held his throbbing head in his hands and focused on the reminders of her around him that both comforted him and hurt him all the more.