Title: Radiant
Chapter: The End of the Beginning
Author: Jinni
Rated: FR18
Disclaimer: All things Doctor Who belong to the BBC, et al.
Distribution: Silent Obsession and any other sites I might post it to.
Notes: Started as a response to a challenge issued at lj usertimeandchips

Notes2: We'll begin with the obligatory recap of PotW, shall we? This first part contains dialogue from s1e13. AU from after the events of TCI.
Spoilers: Everything. It's all up for grabs. This includes all recent episodes airing in the UK.

Chapter 1: The End of the Beginning

The universe was spinning.

Beneath her hand and in her head; it spun on and on. Never-ending. She could feel it moving around her, within her. It breathed and lived, just like she did. At once it was both beautiful and frightening. It was…eternal, timeless. The universe and all that it ever did and ever would encompass, was bright and wonderful, even in moments of pain. It was -

It was drifting away?

She struggled to hold onto the memory, the knowledge, the very essence of what it all meant; but with every passing moment it faded more and more, the light leaving until there was nothing but a pinprick of it at the edge of the darkness. She whimpered, though whether it was out loud or in her mind she didn't know.

It was gone. No, not gone, still that pinprick of light sparkling in the darkness, so slight and miniscule compared to the fire that had once burned so brightly within her; but now she didn't even know what that pinprick meant. Didn't know what to make of it.

A rumbling began, familiar, and she couldn't remember now what she'd lost to begin with. Or why she was lying on the floor of the TARDIS, metal grating hard and unyielding under her. She'd be aching for sure if she didn't get up soon.

Rose cracked an eye open as the TARDIS began to power up, making the ever comforting sound of departure.

The next moments were surreal. The TARDIS was humming to life and Rose felt nothing but confusion, just laying there on the floor. The Daleks? Where did they go?

She'd been at home. The Doctor had sent her away. Sent her to live a normal life, thinking she would be happy. Happy knowing he had died? How did that work? He wasn't dead, though; he was standing at the console looking down at the controls.

"What happened?" God, was that her voice, all tremble-y and confused?

"Don't you remember?"

She frowned, trying so very hard to remember what had happened. Nothing made sense. Her head felt impossibly full, she'd have a headache soon, she knew it. Something had happened. She'd come back to save the Doctor – that much she could remember. Least, she could remember opening the TARDIS up, trying to get access to the heart of it so that she could return and get the Doctor. He wasn't going to die. He couldn't be allowed to die. That was all that she could remember. Nothing about what came next.

Except… singing?

"It's like… there was this singing…"

"That's right," he grinned. "I sang a song and the Daleks ran away."

The words made no sense, but that was just the Doctor. Sometimes he didn't make any sense. She ignored it for the moment, trying again to retrace her steps. "I was at home.. no, I wasn't… I was in the TARDIS… and…there was this light…" she trailed off, shaking her head. It just wasn't coming to her. "I can't remember anything else."

…brightness followed by darkness… followed by waking up on the floor of the TARDIS, no Daleks in sight and her Doctor quite alive….

She offered him a tremulous smile but he wasn't paying her any mind, just looking down at the console. There were things to do, places to be, she supposed. Didn't really matter what happened, she supposed, so long as they were both living to tell the tale. The Daleks had fled for one reason or another and that was good enough for her if it was good enough for him.

"Rose Tyler," he looked up at her. "I was going to take you to so many places. Barcelona. Not the city Barcelona – the planet Barecelona. You'd love it. Fantastic place. They've got dogs with no noses."

Barcelona…

Was? He –was- going to take her there? Rose's brain screeched to a halt at the use of the past tense. This was it, then? He was getting rid of her? Dropping her off back on Earth and then he'd swan off, never to be heard from again? She felt her heart drop at the possibility, but forced herself to just keep on looking at him, meeting his expression, that goofy grin, as she asked what he was getting on about, playing confused; acting as though she didn't know that he was upset with her for coming back to save him.

He couldn't see that she loved him, she supposed. Else, he did and he just did not share the feeling. Rose swallowed down a painful lump of emotion, trying to digest what the Doctor was saying, even as she giggled at whatever it was that he thought was so funny about the dogs that didn't have noses.

"Imagine how many times a day you end up telling that joke – and it's still funny!"

Odd, she couldn't see the humor in it even now, but she kept grinning anyway. There was a feeling in the back of her head that just wouldn't let go. Something was wrong….off… just plain not right.

"Then why can't we go?" she asked innocently, prepared to throw herself down and apologize if that's what it took to make him not drop her off back home. All she had wanted to do was save him. He couldn't be mad at her for that, could he? For saving his life?

"Maybe you will. And maybe I will. But not like this."

Not ditching her, then. Not swanning off to see the universe and all of time without her. 'Cept, "You're not making any sense."

"I might never make sense again," he said with another insane smile. I might have two heads. Or no head!"

She doesn't join in when he laughs this time, because she doesn't understand what he means. Rose shakes her head, trying to clear the unease from it. Something is wrong, but the Doctor is alive, she is alive, and they are together – isn't that all that matters?

"Imagine me with no head – and don't say that's an improvement."

Even the smile she'd been trying to hold onto faltered at that. It slips and slides over her lips and falls to the floor, forgotten.

"But it's a bit dodgy, this process. You never know what you're going to end up with –"

Pain. It hit him so quickly that she is startled out of her confusion, wincing in shared pain. "Doctor!"

"Stay away!"

"Doctor, tell me what's going on!"

"I absorbed all the energy of the Time Vortex, and no one's meant to do that."

She wanted to ask him why he did it then; to question him about whether or not that's how he got rid of the Daleks. But there's something in his eyes that betrays the fact that he doesn't want her asking.

"Every cell in my body's dying."

Dying. Dead. Gone. Her Doctor. Rose trembled, very afraid.

"Can't you do something?" She was getting hysterical. Could hear it in her voice and knew she was just about as close to having a breakdown as she'd ever had in her entire life.

"Yeah, I'm doing it now! Time Lords have this little trick, it's... sort of a way of cheating death. Except – It means I'm gonna change."

Rose shook her head. She didn't understand. Couldn't understand. What was this and why hadn't he ever mentioned it before? Cheating death? Change? No. This couldn't be happening.

In the back of her mind something whispered that it was real, that it was happening. That it was all very fine and natural… but she ignored that voice.

And I'm not gonna see you again. Not like this. Not with this daft old face.

Rose leaned against the wall, suddenly very weak in the legs. Her head was pounding, threatening to spill open its contents at any moment, she was sure of it. This was what it felt like to die inside. In the back of her mind, something was humming along at the speed of light, urging her to accept, understand; but she couldn't.

"And before I go –"

"Don't say that," she gasped a denial, knowing even as she did so that it would not stop what was happening right before her eyes. Could not deny the process which had begun, a process which he had left her in the dark about. A process that could not be halted once it had begun, she knew somehow.

And she tried to be angry about that, for all of a few seconds, as she regarded the Doctor – her Doctor – looking at her through sparkling, sad eyes. Tried so hard to feel anger and not pain. Not loss unlike anything she had ever known before in her entire life.

Tried to not feel like he was dying right there in front of her, with her helpless to do anything to stop it. No hospitals to take sick Time Lords to. No places that she could get help for him, if there was even help to be had. There wasn't, didn't she know that. No help. Not for him and not for her. It was all ending. All of it.

The wall was the only thing holding her up now, that and the desperate desire not to fall down in front of him. If these really are his last moments with her, he won't see her collapse like some silly… human.

"Rose - Before I go, I just want to tell you… you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic… and you know what? So was I."

He grinned then, so wide and huge; making her want to cry and laugh at the same time. Yes, yes you were fantastic; she wanted to say the words but they just would not come out. She wanted to tell him just what he means to her. But she just had to accept that he knows, because the words aren't enough and never would have been, even if they had passed by her suddenly traitorous lips. The sound of glass shattering is really only her heart breaking, Rose realized in that last second before the Doctor began to glow. Bright. Brighter than bright. She put her hand up, as though to shield her eyes, yet still she doesn't look away. The light is so achingly familiar, but for the life of her she cannot remember what about it called out to her.

Through the sifting strands of light, Rose saw the Doctor begin to melt, change. His face.

Without thinking, she held her breath, watching the change take place before her eyes. It was amazing, beautiful, a miracle; though she had no idea where those thoughts came from, because really it was only painful and sad. Depressing. Her Doctor, the man she would have gladly laid down her life for… was…

… gone…

The light faded, leaving a new man in the Doctor's place. A man with a new face and new body, wearing the Doctor's old clothes. She wanted to rip the jacket off of him, deny him the right to wear what her Doctor had worn so well. It didn't look good on him.

"Hello! Oh…" the newcomer's voice is even different and Rose bites back a sob. This isn't happening, she insists to herself. It's a trick.

"New teeth. That's weird. So…where was I?" He pauses. "Oh, that's right – Barcelona!"

Rose broke. She collapsed to the floor of the TARDIS, leaning against the wall as she slid heavily down. Tears streamed down her face.

… not death… rebirth…

The words were there, in her head, a sweet reminder that came from the recesses of her subconscious. She didn't care. Not about rebirth or life or death.

All she cared about was the Doctor that she'd loved – the one she'd been pretty sure loved her right back.

The one that was gone.

She closed her eyes and cried, ignoring the words that the new Doctor – the false Doctor – was saying to her.

She cried and imagined that the TARDIS was crying with her, singing a dirge to mourn the passing of the old to the new.

END CHAPTER ONE