Summary: Impossible? Nah, that's nothing. The Doctor can do impossible in his sleep. Frequently has, too. Some angsty but eventual feel-good stuff with Rose and Ten set after "Doomsday". May or may not lead to smut. We'll see. I can, however, promise a happy ending. Because I'm like that.
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith, Jackie Tyler, Peter Tyler.
Genre: Romance, Angst, Fluff, Suspense.
Spoilers: "Doomsday" of season two. Picks up almost right where it left off.
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is nothing of mine. All the BBC's creation and ownership. Believe me, it's something I cry about on a daily basis. But it's probably just as well, because I couldn't come up with the fantastic storylines anyway.
A/N: This story wrote itself. Honestly, it did. I stayed up 'til gone two in the morning, having frantically scribbled in my notebook for two hours flat. And I'm still going. Hope you like.
Almost, Part One
It still hasn't quite sunk in. She sits in the back of the van, its wheels crunching on the road below, quiet and alone. Surrounded by people who love her, yet still totally alone. Even her tears can't betray her.
She does not cry. She does not speak. She does not dream. Conversations are thin on the way back. Mickey sits with her, holding her hand, but his touch is numb. Her mum asks fleeting questions about how and why He came back, that one last time. What he said to her. When he'll be back again. Rose can't quite bring herself to answer.
She hears the words, hears the sounds make sense in her mind – but she does not listen. Neither does she reply. She just sits, eyes forward and face impossible to read. She's a blank canvas, the artist having given up and walked away before he's even begun.
Sometimes the Doctor would fall into that expression. He would wear an invisible mask, a barrier, and it was impossible to read his emotion. It would be both so much and so little that no word could describe it. Perhaps the emotion itself transcended human contemplation, human understanding. Perhaps he was still very, very alien to her. Or perhaps he was just good at pretending. Rose has learned this from him, one of a million lessons he has taught her, and now Mickey feels what she used to as he gazes at her uncarved, pure face. A slight frown flickers across him for the death of his friend.
Quite whether he means the Doctor or Rose, even he doesn't know.
Rose plays their last moments out in her mind like an old film reel. His face is forever engraved into the pit of her mind's eye – the curl of his lips; the emptiness of his smile; the creases in the corner of his eyes. She remembers, briefly, that she has never known him to look so old in his life. He looked withered and tired, like he had had his last adventure.
Her heart cracks that little bit more with every passing second of seeing him alone. He doesn't deserve loneliness. He doesn't want loneliness. Ironic, really, when he spends most of his time making sure he has just that.
That night, she doesn't sleep. She doesn't even try. She sits by the window in the hotel, looking out as the moon bathes the windswept, bare countryside in eerie light. She feels every battered branch of the trees as they move, each only an echo of the hurricane of grief blowing in what's left of her heart.
He has two hearts. Does he hurt more, then? Is there more to break, more to shatter, more to splinter into billions of pieces that rip through him like the death of a thousand angels? She hopes not. By God, she hopes not. Because if he feels the way she does, let alone more so, she might just cry for him for the rest of her life. Her Doctor, in so much pain... He wouldn't be able to cope. He would break and wither, leaving just an empty shell of the man she loved. Loves.
Or he would do what he always does – bottle it up, pretend it's okay, act like he's moving on. She's not sure which she wants. And she hates herself for almost wanting him to feel the way she does, for the rest of his life. Because if she's going to feel this way for the rest of hers, it's nice to know that maybe she has some company in it.
She can't even force the single tear to roll down her cheek while she thinks of him, taking in the desolate view outside of her window. She has cried so much, and she is so tired. She has aged so much, in so many ways, that she knows her mother is right: she is not Rose Tyler anymore.
Slowly, without word or sound, she moves from the window to the door of the room. She isn't even thinking as her feet tread the down stairs, out of the front door and down the road. There is a beach, she knows, some way down the path. It might be half a mile. It might be seven. She walks it without ceremony. She isn't aware of the time she takes to walk it. She doesn't care.
When she gets there, waves roar and crash up the shore, sounding so much like the Doctor's gentle whisper in her ear that she almost remembers what it's like to live again. Almost.
She is beyond scolding herself, beyond telling herself that she's been through all of this before. Once, in the last four months or so, she could cope with. Once was enough. She could cope with once. Just. She had blocked it off, tried to move on, sealed him away inside of her to keep him safe. But he had reopened the wound, and it would not heal a second time.
Four months later, here she was, fighting for every breath. She can still hear his calling in her head, the huskiness of his tone as he pulls her. Pulled her. The voice is silent now – just a memory.
Rose crouches to sit on the sand, not caring that it is damp enough to seep through her jeans. She doesn't know why she has come here. Doesn't know why the air tastes like tears she can't cry. Doesn't know why the moon ripples in the wild water like the eye of a Gleeg, some alien on some planet he once took her to. Doesn't know why the rolling waves she hears still soothe her, or why the wind whipping around her almost feels like his hand on her cheek. If she closes her eyes. And forgets to breathe.
She isn't surprised when the sky at the horizon fades to a bruised grey grey, almost black, and she is still sitting there. Her knees are pulled up somewhere near her chin, her arms draped wearily over them. She may have stopped breathing a long time ago. She doesn't know.
Neither is she surprised when he appears beside her, his hands tucked neatly into his trouser pockets, the tips of his hair dancing in the cheeky breeze. His face is sombre as he looks out to the horizon line, following her gaze. She doesn't even look up. It is not the first time her imagination has conjured an accurate picture for her. Sometimes it's her old Doctor, her first Doctor, brooding or flirtatious or calming or angry. Sometimes it's just a voice in her head, almost like a conscience, telling her what to do when a decision is tough. Guiding her. He has always been good at that.
Tonight, it's him.
She still doesn't look – she knows that if she does, all she'll see is the cliff side way over there, surrounding the bay like angry, jagged teeth. It's best to leave him as a glimpse, a possible shadow out of the corner of her eye. It's easier that way. She never believes it, but it's easier to fall.
Often she just replies in her mind, her head a battlefield for an animated conversation that she may or may not once have had with him.
Tonight, she needs words.
Her throat is hollow and dry, like she hasn't used it in a thousand years. Perhaps she hasn't – sometimes it's difficult to get a word in edgeways when the Doctor starts rambling.
"Oi. I heard that."
She smiles as his voice surrounds her, knowing it isn't real, that it is just a memory, that it is just a fusion of memories all strung together – but still it is almost outside of her, as though she is hearing the words spoken from him rather than herself.
He takes his hands out of the pockets of his all-too-familiar pinstripe suit and his feet almost – but not quite – leave marks in the sand as he makes to crouch next to her. She closes her eyes, feeling his dark, rich spheres burn as he looks at her. If she holds her breath, she can almost hear his breath beside her, almost feel the warmth of his body, almost hear the air hiss from his lips as it escapes him, almost smell his warm and crisp, tangy skin, almost feel his hand reach out and caress her cheek. Her memory is almost good enough. Almost – but not quite.
"Oh, Rose..." He is gentle and tender, just like she remembers when he hurts for her. "Don't cry. Not for me – too many tears have been spilled over silly old me."
She isn't crying on the outside; but it's not the outside he's talking about.
"Not enough," she replies, eyes still shut. Her voice is a whisper in the air around her and she realises these are the first words she has spoken since she told him of her love. "Never enough."
She almost hears him sigh; but it might have been the wind tearing across the waves of the sea.
"I know. I feel the same way – About you, obviously. It would be a bit conceited to think that way about myself."
She laughs pitifully through her nose, a sound that would break his hearts if he were really here.
"Hasn't bothered you before," she teases quietly. Even through closed eyes, she can sense the pallor in the in the sky begin to shift to a muddy, dirty pink. She always prefers a sunrise – it offers so much more hope.
The Doctor ignores her teasings, because he knows it's in good humour and that it's not what she wants right now.
"You should watch this sunrise, Rose. Don't miss it because of me."
She shudders involuntarily as she feels his hand brush at the strands of hair by her cheek, tickling her skin – but she knows it is just the wind playing with her hair and that she is shivering with cold.
"I can't." Back to a whisper again, because she's too afraid that any louder will shatter the illusion.
"Don't be afraid," he murmurs softly, and his voice seems closer, seems warmer, and Rose idly congrats her imagination on being so accurate. "Trust me. Trust yourself. Live on, with me by your side. Open your eyes."
"I can't," she repeats more forcefully – yet her voice is still cracked with grief. And then, in a fearful whisper, she adds, "You'll disappear."
"But if you can't see me anyway, what's the point in keeping your eyes closed? You'll miss everything else, and you won't see me any better or worse for having your eyes open."
He has a point. Even in her mind, he can get the better of her. It was, and is, one of the things she loves in him.
She opens her eyes.
She keeps them forward, too, concentrating on the line of the horizon where the sea touches the sky. Because if she's careful, she might just be able to make his outline from the corner of her eye. Equally, it may be the shape of the cliffs playing tricks on her in the dull light.
"See? It's quite a sunrise."
He's right, of course. Even with just faded colour in the sky, she knows it's going to be spectacular.
The Doctor shifts slightly, closer to her – or perhaps it's just the wind in the dunes behind her.
He turns his head again, eyeing the horizon keenly. If she relaxes her focus, she might just about see him point – but it might be the headland jutting out narrowly over the sea, hundreds of metres away.
"That. Right there. That's why I love this planet."
He is pointing to the horizon and Rose knows it. There's a concentrated strand of light, the tiniest slick of orange just above the level of the sea.
Rose swallows salty air before she asks. "What?"
"That horizon. The impossible. Where land and sky join as one, merging together to create... Well, who knows? Maybe nothing happens. But it never gets any closer, or any further away. Always within sight but never within reach. Earth is one of the only places it's possible to see a horizon like that. Nothing is in the way, nothing sticking up anywhere it shouldn't, nothing spoiling its perfection. There are other planets, of course, but Earth is the only one with the time and simplicity to appreciate it."
She sits and listens to a voice that should be hers but isn't quite, and remembers something a teacher once said about her in school.
'She's a quiet girl, works hard; but sometimes her imagination runs away with her'.
Rose has never before understood that expression, has never worked out what it really means. But sitting here now, like this, she begins to understand and even more so wishes it were true. She wants to run away with her imagination so much, it physically hurts – like a fist, clenching and unclenching in the pit of her stomach. She wants nothing more than to take his hand and run away with him, in every sense she can think of. She wants to the run to the TARDIS, run to his arms, run with him from the aliens, run into danger, run her fingers between his, run her hands through his hair, run her fingernails down his back between his shoulder blades, run her lips over his supple skin...
She shudders, blocking rogue thoughts from her mind. Not here. Not now.
"I'm glad you stopped there," she hears his voice in her head. He sounds amused. "I wouldn't like to be made an 'object' of in the middle of a Norwegian beach. It's much too early for those sorts of thoughts."
She considers, her eyes still on the horizon ahead of her as it begins to burn. The tip of the sun is rising, its rays creeping sleepily up into the sky.
"Or much too late," Rose reflects, not even trying to hide the sadness in her voice. There would be no point – he was inside her head, after all.
What might be a chuckle from the Doctor might also be a wave crashing fervently upon a collecting of rocks at the base of the cliff.
"You really are miserable without me, aren't you?"
There isn't an answer she can give that he doesn't already know, so she keeps quiet.
The Doctor reclines and rests his hands on his thighs for a moment, leaning on his haunches as he watches her. Then with a breath that may well be her own, he stands to full height and gazes softly down to her.
She feels the prickle of temptation to turn and look, feeling rather like she is stuck in Orpheus' story with Hades: she knows that if she gives in to the temptation and turns, she'll be greeted by nothing but empty space. So she doesn't.
"I'm looking for you on the horizon," he tells her, and she feels choked, caught up in emotion that she is bringing on herself. Don't look. He isn't there. You'll lose him. Don't look. "If you wait long enough, I'll find you. The horizon is the impossible – but we've done impossible, Rose. Rather good at it, actually. You and me, we always were impossible, weren't we? We always made it, against all the odds, because that's what we do. We make it work. We find each other. We live on. And I will find you again." There is a pause, and she's not sure how long it lasts. She goes to lick her lips and finds them chapped, hardened in the bitter air. "Do you believe me?"
The tears that sting in her eyes are probably the result from the salty air clawing at her raw face.
Rose blinks and swallows, her mouth hung open in unspoken answers as a menagerie of colours begin to paint across the sky.
"I…" is all she can manage. There isn't a sentence that follows, but she needs to answer him. She doesn't know why.
"Do you believe me?" he repeats.
She hears him stronger, more forceful, inside her head, outside her body. Even though he's just her imagination, sometimes it feels so real that she doesn't want to let go.
Rose closes her eyes again, if just for a second, and remembers a warm ghost of a memory – his lips on hers, soft and gentle, from a long, long time ago.
"Yes," she calls breathlessly in answer, gasping the word out as if he's just asked her if she loves him.
"Good. Now open your eyes, watch the sunrise and wait for me. I'll meet you on the horizon."
Temptation takes over and she opens her eyes, turning her head to look at him pleadingly, see any sign on his face or in the sand that he's there.
She is alone, and it does not surprise her; but she can't quite escape the single, choked sob that courses through her as she looks back to the sunrise, reaching out to him with her heart. She'll watch because it is beautiful and captivating. And she'll wait – because he told her to.
End of Part One.