Title: Another Parting
Pairing: NineRose implied
Rating & warnings: Suitable for all ages. Spoilers for the end of the most recent series and also some things which I understand are coming up in the next series.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with Doctor Who, not even any of the DVDs (shame on me, really). It's not mine, although I'd be willing to take either or both of Nine and Ten off of the BBC's hands if they want to send them my way.
Author's Note & summary: My first (and most likely my last) Doctor Who fic. Rose Tyler simply can't let go of her Doctor.
The second time that the end comes, it creeps up slowly on them both.
For once, it's not a matter of life or death. No emergency recording is necessary. It isn't even forced upon them by an unexpected regeneration. There is no blinding flash of light to signal that it's over.
They simply know, in much the same way that they knew they were destined to travel together when they first met, that it's time to part.
Their time has come. Their time is up.
The Doctor starts to smile at her, but Rose turns away before she can see him. She knows the expression well, because she's seen it too many times before. It's the smile that's meant to reassure her that nothing is wrong and nothing has changed, but instead proves that everything is wrong and everything has changed. Because it's not his smile; it's the smile of a stranger wearing another man's clothes.
She's never been able to forget that first moment, and how she'd felt as she watched her Doctor disappear before her very eyes. She couldn't believe what had happened, and she hadn't thought she was capable of feeling so much pain. But even then, she might have been able to cope with the different voice, the smaller ears, the brown eyes, and the longer hair, had it not been for that bloody jacket.
The new Doctor saw her anguish at his changed appearance almost instantly, and as the smile faded from his unfamiliar face he reached for her. For a moment she wanted to flee into his arms, but then the scent had reached her – the familiar smell of leather that had never quite faded, no matter how much of a battering the jacket took – and she couldn't do it. So she ran the other way instead.
It's an initial reaction from which there is no coming back. Rose cries herself to sleep every night, retrieves the jacket from the back of the wardrobe when the Doctor-impostor discards it in favour of rather more tartan than Rose approves of, and wears it constantly as a reminder of how things used to be.
Looking back at it now, she supposes that the jacket episode marked the start of the end.
For a while they continue on their travels. He takes her to Barcelona as promised, and tells that awful joke a thousand times. They rescue Jack, and battle the Cybermen, and do a hundred other things besides. But none of it matters, not anymore. Not like it used to.
The Doctor tries countless times to break down the barriers she erects between them, but she always pushes him away. He holds on regardless.
"You have to let go, Rose," he whispers on one occasion. "Let me go. And let me in."
His words are obviously sincere, and they stir something deep within her, but when he moves to touch her, she can't stop herself from shirking back and pulling her jacket tighter around herself, seeking safety in the familiar no matter how much it hurts.
"I've tried," she chokes out. "But…I can't. I just can't!"
"Why not?" he sounds genuinely bewildered and Rose knows that she's being unfair. Some part of her knows that deep down inside, he is the same man that he was. He is the same man that she loved then and still loves now, because despite everything, there are some things that will never change.
She meets his gaze directly for the first time in a long time. "It's not you," she says at last. "It's him. And it will always be him."
And she doesn't have to say anymore, because they both know what she means. And they both understand that they have to return to Earth, before their timeless existence tears Rose Tyler's fragile heart apart.
There is no goodbye kiss. They've been there and done that, and it feels like a lifetime ago. Rose supposes that it was a lifetime ago, for The Doctor at least. He simply opens the door of the TARDIS and silently watches her walk through it. He makes no move to try and stop her and she refuses to let herself turn back. They both know it's time for her to go; there's no point prolonging the agony.
It's ironic, really, she thinks. It's the end of the most extraordinary experience of her life, and yet it feels just like the end of every other doomed relationship she's ever had. Even though she's the one who's leaving, she's still the one who's left behind. He'll find a new travelling companion and go off in his TARDIS to have more adventures, and she'll tread water while trying to rediscover some meaning to her life.
She doesn't know how she thought it would end, but she didn't think it would be like this.
"Rose?" he calls out from behind her.
She turns, heart hammering in her chest so loudly he can probably hear it. The Doctor is leaning against the door of the TARDIS, arms folded across his chest, his long tartan scarf flapping in the breeze. There's a small smile playing around his lips, but even from a distance she can see the sadness in his eyes.
His voice is quiet, but she can hear the note of determination running through the words. "We'll always have Barcelona."
And she can't stop herself from laughing aloud. Somehow, he always seems to know the right thing to say, and suddenly she can't resist repeating the very words which have sustained her since the night her Doctor vanished from her life.
She waits for a moment, drinking in the sight before her because she knows this is the last time her eyes will ever see it. Once, she might have wished that she had memorised every line of his face – of both his faces – for fear that her memories would fade and he would become little more than a blur in time. Now, in the split second before tears cloud her vision, she understands that the passage of time will mean nothing to either of them. No matter what he might look like, he'll always remember her, just as she'll never forget him.
It's as if a terrible weight has dropped off her shoulders when she smiles at him. "You were fantastic, Doctor, absolutely fantastic." She pauses again. "And you know what? So was I."
And when he smiles back at her, telling her without words that he too remembers the last time those words were spoken, she suddenly sees him - really sees him - for the very first time.
All at once she sees him as he was, as he is, and as he could be. It's just like looking into the heart of the TARDIS, and she realises that it's because for her, at least, he is the heart of the TARDIS. He is her heart.
"You were, Rose. You really were."
Then he slowly turns away and closes the door behind him.
And as the TARDIS disappears, while a single tear traces a path down Rose's cheek, she lets her Doctor go, and lets The Doctor in.