They had been drifting in the Time Vortex for the better part of a day, giving the TARDIS a chance to complete repairs to herself. Rose had managed to catch up on some of her lost sleep, and had then spent some time wandering the seemingly endless corridors, but the torch lit hallways and stone tunnels were nowhere to be found. Eventually she found herself in the library, and struck by a notion of whimsy, found a copy of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, and curled up with it by the hearth.
She had gotten no more than a few chapters in, when she heard the door open, and soft footsteps crossed the thickly carpeted floor. She glanced up to see the Doctor, standing awkwardly with his hands folded behind him, chewing on his lip in a most uncharacteristically self-conscious manner.
"What's up?" she asked, shoving her hair behind an ear.
"I remembered something," he said, a bit hoarsely; then smiled and brought his hands out from behind his back, holding out a small flat something wrapped loosely in silvery fabric. "Found it at the bottom of my closet. Must have survived the… well, the TARDIS kept track of it, well enough."
Rose set the book aside and got up curiously, her fingers brushing his as she took the object delicately from his grasp. "What is it?"
He grinned. "Open it and see."
She cast him a suspicious look, but he simply rocked back on his heels and continued to grin expectantly. She shrugged and sat down to unwrap the parcel on her lap. Inside she found a plain flat box, and a handwritten letter. With another puzzled glance at the Doctor, she unfolded the creamy parchment and read.
I understand now why I can never show you Gallifrey. I can't thank you enough for sparing me the pain. I know it must have been difficult for you. Events have been in motion for far too long for even the Time Lords – even one rather foolish Time Lord with a penchant for bending the Laws of Time – to stand in their way now. But thanks to you, he can perhaps spare a small piece of history. If this letter reaches you, then you'll understand.
I am comforted to know that whatever else the future may hold, it will hold you.
All my love,
Rose sniffled and realized that her cheeks were wet. She looked up helplessly at the Doctor, who knelt before her and gently wiped the tears away. "Look in the box," he said quietly.
She removed the lid. Inside was a plain black frame, which held an odd, shimmering picture within. She lifted it out of the box and held it up curiously. The image shifted with her perspective, and with a surprised 'oh!' she realized it was holographic. And though she'd never seen it first-hand, it seemed somehow familiar.
The Doctor slid round to her side to see it as well. "The view from the western face of Mount Lung, on Gallifrey," he explained softly as she stared into the shimmering waves of silver that stretched tantalizingly into the distance. "All the way to the Cadonflood, there," he pointed out a thin hint of flowing water beyond the forest, and sighed. "I used to climb those trees in the summertime. Spent my childhood there, as it were." He chuckled ruefully. "Couldn't get away from the place fast enough, back then."
Rose turned her eyes with difficulty from the holographic picture to his face, a breath trembling in her throat; but she couldn't make any sound come out. Instead she set the frame down reverently and threw her arms around him. He hugged her back fiercely. She burrowed her head against his chest, the alien yet comforting rhythm of his double heartbeat thudding a soothing lullaby in her ear. After what felt like an eternity, she was able to loosen her fingers from his jacket and sit back with a loud sniff.
"I don't know what to say," she said.
He smiled. "Don't have to say anything. You're here, that's all that matters." He unfolded his lanky form and stood up, pausing to offer his hand to her. "Come with me? I've got an idea where we're going next."
She blinked up at him, wiping a single remaining tear from her eye and just drinking him in. Big stupid ears, big stupid grin; but he was so much more than that.
"Where?" she asked.
His eyes twinkled. "Someplace with a lot of butterflies."
Rose Tyler leapt out of her seat and grabbed hold of her Doctor's hand. It fit perfectly.