Disclaimer: If I owned Doctor Who, this would be in hard cover at your local bookseller's. K?
Spoilers: Post-Doomsday. Not a reunion!fic. Companion to Everything Will Be Alright but not mutually exclusive.
A/N: Angst. Angsty McAngsterson. Way angstier than the first, but this is what emo!muse wanted. Hope you like.
The Doctor let the outside door of the TARDIS swing shut and looked up at the sky.
It was one of the last planets they had visited together, before the events at Torchwood Tower. It had been…ooh, so many years in his timeline since he'd lost Rose Tyler. He knew down to the exact nanosecond, but he didn't let himself think of them now, choosing instead to ignore the ever present clock ticking in his brain.
The sky was a rosy sort of…no. He ground his thinking process to a halt and stood quietly for a minute before letting himself try again.
The sky was a soft pink, a few wisps of pale orange clouds floating across it as the sun rose behind the craggy outcropping of rocks. He listened to the faint roar of one of the dragon-like creatures as it soared high above his head, and tucked his hands into his trouser pockets. That moment from so long ago was etched into his brain like an old Earth movie—the image was crackly, black and grainy, but he could still picture every line and contour of her beautiful face in his mind's eye.
The Rose Tyler of his world had died centuries before, in his timeline. The Rose Tyler of Pete's World had died not long after that, he was sure, because that was something humans did. He was unsure how they ever got anything completed in 70 or 80 years, but dying was a habit of theirs he couldn't convince them to break.
He remembered when they'd stood on this planet, standing under the…he took a deep breath, let it out slowly… the rosy sky, reminding him of another rosy sky, sunset instead of sunrise, when he'd gotten as close as he'd ever get to asking her to be his. She'd answered, given him everything he wanted, without even realising exactly what he was asking.
She promised him forever, without a qualm or a thought to the sacrifice she was making, and he'd been too…too selfish and too prideful and just…too…scared to accept that sacrifice. So he kept his cards close to the vest, keeping her with him until it got too dangerous and then threatened to send her back, did send her back.
He was doing the right thing, the right thing for her and sacrificing, because why should he be happy? Or, at least, that's what he'd told himself at the time.
But once again she'd called his bluff and come back to him and right into the face of danger. If his Rose was anything, she was brave.
In the end, he'd done nothing.
He'd sacrificed her, lost her. She'd be dead, thanks to him, if it weren't for Pete, or as good as.
He, the Last Time Lord, the Sole Survivor of the Great Time War, the self-proclaimed highest authority in the universe, had been completely, utterly helpless as he watched his best mate, the woman he loved, the most courageous woman he'd ever known be pulled to a horrifying and untimely death.
If he concentrated, and more often than not, he tried not to, he could still hear the rushing of the Void, could still hear the little moans that had worked their way from Rose as she'd struggled to hold on.
In the end, he'd been the one who'd screamed in terror, not her.
She always was the brave one.
He'd been through more companions since her than he cared to count, but… he could never forget her.
He tried, he really had tried. Purposefully pushing thoughts of her from his mind, instructing the TARDIS to move her untouched bedroom as far from him as she could, concentrating on his life and his now and his future and the next adventure, the next planet, always moving on.
It'd always worked before.
He'd turn to remind Rose "remember when we…" and then trail off as he caught sight of Scott or Tammy or Trina or Martha. Everyone but Rose.
And so he'd realised that he'd never be able to push her from his mind and had unknowingly gone to the opposite extreme.
He'd brought her room next to his once more, had taken her pictures and mementos and placed them around his room as constant reminders to him. It'd probably been something akin to torture, self-torture for costing such a vibrant young woman her life, but he'd spent hours studying those pictures or holding a jacket of hers, coming up with excuses to sleep just so he could be near her pillow again.
He knew, now, that his obsession with Rose and her life and her death had been unhealthy and though he'd never claimed to be entirely sane, walking in on him curled up on Rose's bed, wrapped in her violent pink comforter and holding her corduroy jacket had probably inspired more than one companion to pack up and leave.
But now… five hundred years, two hours and some minutes since he'd lost the love of his long, long life… the one he'd realised he loved only after he'd lost her…he'd reached a delicate balance.
He still had some of her pictures in his bedroom, her comforter lay folded on a corner chair for when a little extra warmth was needed. He'd spent two years slowly and methodically working through her clothing, needing to stop his task frequently in the beginning because of the pain, reminiscing over the good moments they'd shared, toward the end of it.
He hadn't been able to take on a new companion until long after he knew she was dead.
Maybe they'd never said the words, but loving someone was never having to say it and when he'd tried having a companion mere years after Torchwood Tower, it'd felt like a betrayal to a dead wife.
So he'd waited. What else did he have but time?
He turned to look over his shoulder at the TARDIS. He thought of Carys asleep in his bed. She wasn't exactly like Rose and she wasn't Rose's polar opposite, either. But he loved her. And he'd told her.
Not telling Rose had been his only regret, by the time he forgave himself.
He'd never get over losing Rose. He'd never move on. But with time, he'd managed to work through his feelings and put away what hurt the most and remember only what he loved best about her.
After all this time, Rose had finally done what she'd sent out to do since the first time he'd grabbed her hand.
She'd given him a life. She'd forgiven him all his transgressions, healed him of his demons. She'd made him strong again.
He turned and headed back to the TARDIS. To his wife and their children. The twin suns broke over the horizon, bathing the blue ship in light as he turned to look back, picturing Rose smiling at him, reading forever on her face, in her eyes before the word had been gently spoken.
He smiled, said the words out loud, softly, that he'd tried and failed to say to her so many years before.
She'd rescued him.