There are countless stories, dear reader, that feature a person falling in love with someone or something out of their reach. Sometimes they end in tragedy. Sometimes they do not.
It depends on how you define 'tragedy'.
"I want you safe. My Doctor. Protected from the false God..."
"YOU CANNOT HURT ME. I AM IMMORTAL."
"You are tiny. I can see the whole of time and space - every single atom of your existence, and I divide them. Everything must come to dust... all things. Everything dies."
PART ONE- LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD IS THE BIG BAD WOLF
It did not begin with the gravestone.
In fact, it probably began with the night Rose Tyler met Sarah Jane Smith- the night she'd realised she wasn't the first to travel the stars and (perhaps even worse) wouldn't be the last. The night when she'd been told there were things worth having your heart broken for, even though she hadn't planned on having her heart broken at all.
No-one ever plans these things.
Or perhaps it began with the day the Doctor jumped through a portal to rescue a girl who wasn't her. She often cast her mind back to that day, and she couldn't remember, couldn't tell, and couldn't understand what she had thought when he had crashed through a mirror to someone else's world. Two sides of her had been at war. One side had been saying Oh my god he's gone, he left me, left me for someone else, left me trapped here, and the other side had been saying Come on, you know he'll be back in a minute. But the minutes had ticked by and he hadn't come back, and she had been afraid.
Would he be back by midnight?
Would he be back at all?
And if he had left her to do nothing but go back to the TARDIS with Mickey, and hit a switch and be taken home, would she have hated him for the rest of her life? The thought terrified her.
But he had come back.
The gravestone was a different matter. The gravestone was hers. She ran across it accidentally- they went to London in the 2060s, for a pop concert or a major sporting event or something- she forgot so easily now, it got jumbled in her mind- and they crossed the graveyard, because it was the quickest way.
"Is my estate still around?" she asked as they wandered through the grass. It was early morning, and the grass was wet.
"I believe so," the Doctor said.
"And my mum...she's...she ain't, is she?"
"It's 2067," the Doctor answered quietly.
"Yeah. Just...being thick," She gave a quick smile and then saw the gravestone. Her name was written on it. She blinked and stopped and stared, and felt her heart sink. Or maybe it broke, although she didn't know it then.
She walked towards the grave, afraid.
"That's me," she whispered.
She saw the Doctor freeze, out of the corner of her eye. "That's me," she repeated.
The gravestone read ROSE MARION TYLER. It had her date of birth carved into the stone, and her date of death- 2065. She died in 2065. She was dead. She died here.
ROSE MARION TYLER, DAUGHTER OF PETER TYLER AND JACKIE TYLER.
And beneath all that it read 'Deeply missed.'
Rose, staring in horror at the future all mortals had, did not consider who it was who deeply missed her.
But all the same- the gravestone had not been where it had started, really. It had just been the last...well, the last nail in the coffin, so to speak.
It - 'it' being the biggest decision of her life- had happened in little pieces, little pieces insignificant to an alien Time Lord but huge and horrible to a nineteen year old girl. Pieces like the mirror he'd jumped through to reach the other girl- leaving her behind to an uncertain future. The mirror could never be fixed, not properly, and she had felt she couldn't either.
The night after that had happened, she couldn't sleep- she lay and looked up at the ceiling and thought Maybe this is it. Maybe it's time to go home. And then the stubborn side of her said, You're an idiot. You love it here. You love this life. And then she remembered things like walking on frozen waves, dancing, walking through worlds long gone without a care in the world, and she was terrified that those things would never happen again.
They went on for a long time- going places and leaving places and finding people and losing people. Rose realised one day, while fighting a monster, that she was no longer nineteen years old. Nor was she twenty. She was an old, old woman, with the body and soul of a teenager. She was perhaps bordering on not even being properly human anymore- and she did not want to be something not human.
"Where d'ya want to go now?" he asked her when the monsters were dead.
"I don't know," she answered. "I just don't know."
You're being mad, she told herself. You can go ANYWHERE. Anywhere that ever was or ever will be. And you're seriously thinking you can just go home? You've changed. You can never go home. You're trapped here.
You've LOST your home. Just like he lost his. Hell, maybe that was even what he had in mind all along.
And she was terrified. She lay on her bed and thought about things- about her room at home, the park near her house where she'd found BAD WOLF written one day, the pictures on the wall of the living room, the pop songs on the radio, the newsagents which gave her her first job- all the stupid little things. All the stupid little things which used to make up her life. And she missed them.
He is immortal, pretty much, she thought. And you're not. You never will be. Now if only you knew what to do.
"What would you say," she asked the Doctor, her voice shaking and hands trembling, "if I said I...I'm sort of wondering...about going home."
He stared at her.
He thinks it's a wind-up, she realised.
He stared and laughed, and then the laughter ran out and he whispered, "Why?"
"I'm homesick." Rose answered. "I don't know why."
"Homesick?" he said, fear and confusion in his voice. But he didn't say How can you be homesick when you're home?
But it couldn't end that way:
"I'm taking you to 2007, then," the Doctor said, not looking at her or anything in the room. "Are you sure, Rose?"
She wasn't sure, she wasn't sure at all. She was being stupid. She was about to throw her life away.
"Yes," she said quickly. And then, "I mean no."
"Oh, Rose," he said sadly. Or maybe bitterly, she wasn't sure. "I don't want to lose you." And he was desperate now, and she wanted so badly to stay, and she so nearly did, but then she thought of something.
"I might not stay permanently," she said in a shaky voice. "I...I just thought...you can leave me on Earth..." She swallowed. "And then you can set the TARDIS to come back in a year, to the same time, and...I can tell you then, if I want to stay or go off again." She suspected she was being selfish, and she didn't like it, but on the other hand...she was desperate to compromise. "A year for me and a few seconds for you...I just want to know, yeah?" She looked at him anxiously.
"I don't know," the Doctor said. "Why not?"
"Because you might have died, Rose," came the answer.
She felt sick, felt guilty, felt like a normal human being faced with an impossible choice. "I promise not to die."
"Promises don't mean much, Rose," he said sadly. "Not really. I promised your mother I'd keep you safe, and..." He trailed off. Rose knew he was thinking about leaving her trapped with a Dalek, leaving her alone on a spaceship. Sacrifices for the greater good.
"I promise not to die if you promise to come back in a year."
Rose felt nothing.
He held her hand and they stepped outside. The world had carried on without them.
"It's just a holiday for me, yeah? And a few seconds for you. I just want to know. I just want to know if I can make it in the real world."
"The real world," the Doctor repeated thoughtfully.
They looked at each other.
"So," the Doctor said. "A second for me and a year for you."
"Yes," Rose said. "And don't..."
She was being selfish again. "Don't come back with...anyone else. Please?"
He nodded. A very slight nod.
"I'll see you in a year. Goodbye, Rose Tyler."
"Not goodbye," Rose insisted, not knowing.
"Thank you," the Doctor said. Maybe he knew.
They looked at each other again.
"See you later," Rose said.
"Goodbye," the Doctor said. "I'll come back for you in a year, Rose Tyler. At midnight."
He did not let go of her hand.
She let go of his.