I'm sure RTD will do his damnedest to make this AU with series three. But that's okay because RTD is wrong and Rose belongs with the Doctor.

Disclaimers: I don't own anything, but I'm really good at borrowing CE and DT.

Spoilers: Companion to "Only Time." You don't have to read that to understand this, they're both stand-alones, but they're companion pieces, so it might help. TenRose, again, squinting. Let's just say every spoiler you can think of and then everyone's covered, hmm? Shorty oneshot, Angst McAngst, but you know how plot bunnies (almost said blot punnies) are. This is a lot longer than I had planned and will likely include at least another part.


Time heals.

The Doctor stood motionless, staring into middle space as the image of Rose and the beach around them faded and left him in the dim, eerie green light of the console. He felt the tears dripping down his cheeks but did nothing to stop them.

For so long he'd suppressed and repressed and all other sorts of –essed all of his feelings and emotions, always and now, with the loss of the one thing he'd finally, finally considered a constant in his life, they all came pouring out of him.

He wasn't sure when his knees gave out from under him or when his hands had covered his face. All he knew were the tears that poured from him, that wouldn't stop pouring from him until he was shaking and cold and dry heaving from the coughs that wracked his body with his sobs.

Eventually, he was numb and he stood and walked to his bedroom. He was numb for a little while longer, yet.

One day, he remembered that he had to eat and went to find a grocer so he could stock up. Instead, he found himself staring up at Rose and Jackie's flat on the Powell Estate.

If he closed his eyes, he could imagine Rose coming from the TARDIS behind him, grousing at him for not moving fast enough. He could picture Jackie leaning over the rail, yelling gleefully down at them.

He liked to think she'd even grown to like him, in the end.

Forcing himself from his reverie and berating himself, again, for what he couldn't change, he turned and headed toward town. He gathered what he needed and went back to the TARDIS, shutting the door behind him with a sense of finality.

There was no reason for him to be here anymore. To ever come here again. Rose oh, god, Rose, Jackie, even Mickey had been the closest thing he'd had to a family in a long time. Rose may have lost him, but he lost his world.

So, he left and he found another.

He did as he promised her. Adventure after adventure and this time alone.

It was harder to enjoy the hairpin chances he took knowing there was no one there to rescue him if he needed it.

He once begged a Canornian sleezak to end his life after he'd been caught and fairly well tortured. He'd only made the other alien sick with the Doctor's pitiful demeanour and had been let go.

The Doctor didn't care to remember that particular episode.

Eventually, he met others along the way. Some stayed with him for a few days, some a few months. But never anyone he cared about, no one he would remember and everyone he would forget.

Once, he'd found Martha going through Rose's bedroom. Not out of any malice, but simple curiosity, since he'd never mentioned Rose to anyone.

He understood, but he still yelled at her for hours.

He knew better than anyone that time heals all wounds and yet he found the advice sorely lacking.

He went to her bedroom door and unlocked it, opening the door and just standing in the doorway, leaning against the jamb. Other than the time he'd forcibly removed Martha, he hadn't been able to cross into the room.

Not without feeling the huge, burning ball make its way into his throat.

He stared at the bed, remembering their first—and last—time, only the night before she'd been pulled away from him.

Funny, it'd seemed much easier when he'd made the decision to send her and Jackie back with Pete. Always was when you had the choice.

Time changes.

They saved the world, found Jack and the Doctor cried.

Not in that order, but all in one day.

Jack, poor Jack. He'd had to come to grips with a new Doctor and no Rose in the same sitting. He'd wanted to kill him, the Doctor knew, and wasn't sure if he'd have fought back.

The one unspoken agreement between them, in their short time together, was to do what they could to keep Rose safe. She was innocent, precious, pure and she had to be shielded from the vulgarities of life.

The Doctor had succeeded.

And in succeeding, failed.

He poured out his whole story to Jack and Jack had comforted him in the only way he knew how.

He learned to forgive and yes, forget a little. Just enough so he could breathe without the sharp stabs of guilt and remorse stabbing into him.

This Doctor began to change, became like the Before Doctor.

Darker, quieter, colder. Deeper, so much deeper and only in it to prove he was still alive.

Sometimes he wondered.

He saw Jack now and again. Somewhere he was grateful he still had a reason to visit Earth, even if it was Cardiff and not London. Even if it was Jack and not Rose.

He let Jack take him to a pub sometimes and ply him with liquor, human liquor, which he'd never, ever been able to hold. He cries a little again, shows a little emotion and Jack doesn't feel so bad about the Doctor's hangover the next morning.

When the Doctor dreams and sees Rose, he's happy, but it hurts more. She's standing ahead of him, crying as she says I love you and he remembered that he failed her again and never said it back.

Time stops.

The Doctor remembers possibilities. Moreover, he remembers impossibilities and his love for them.

He buries himself in his library, glasses perched on his nose, books, pamphlets and tomes surrounding him, the piles growing bigger as he pulled more and more off the shelves, looking for the answer.

Martha, Jack, no one bothers him because they know they'll catch hell if they do. The Doctor remembers another Hell and another impossibility and it lets him feel hope.

Eventually, he thinks he might have found the answer but he knows in his amazing brain that it's not likely.

Still, hope grows.

One day, one visit, he pulls Jack aside and shows him sheet after sheet of his calculations and figures.

Jack looks horrified at what the Doctor proposes. After all, he'll probably die.

And that's where the Doctor's problems lie. Because as long as there's always a possibility, the Doctor always accepts the challenge.

Even if it's an impossible possibility.

Jack tries everything to get the Doctor to change his mind, but the Doctor has a single-mindedness on this Jack had never seen. When Jack asks "what about Martha," the Doctor shrugs.

Martha was never more than a travelling companion to him and she knows that. If she doesn't come with, she'll survive. If she does, and they make it, well, he supposes she'd survive that world, too.

One night, days after he's decided on a final plan, but before he can make himself follow-through, he sits and he thinks and he wonders.

He wonders about Rose, about what she's got on to in her life. He was fairly sure she missed him still, but would she still want him there?

He wonders if maybe she moved on, with Mr. Mickey, and if so, he knows he can talk her away again.

He hopes.

He explains his plan to Martha, who gives him her complete trust immediately.

The Doctor feels he didn't deserve it, but she gave it anyway. He didn't have a choice.

He says goodbye to Jack, a long, long hug. The two men stand and hold each other, each one crying, each one trying not to. They both know that the Doctor and Martha will likely die and if they don't, well, Jack'll never see them again anyway.

Pulling back, wiping his eyes on his suit coat, Jack hands a thick envelope to the Doctor with instructions it go to Rose, if they should make it. The Doctor nods, tucking it into his inside breast pocket, next to his own envelope for her.

Jack kisses them both goodbye and watches as the TARDIS fades from this universe for the final time.