A/N: Oneshot. Probably angst, but a good friend called (Like A) Hand Print on my Heart "fluffy angst" or "flangst," and I think this one falls there, too. This one is dedicated to Lin, who reawakened my love of Josh Groban and is based on the song of the same title. Shameless lyric-ripping at one point, but it's not a song!fic.
Spoilers: Doomsday, basically.
Summary: At the end of all things, the ones we love are the ones we remember. They are the ones who matter.
You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)
"Listen, Doctor." The achingly familiar voice hit his ears and gasping, the Doctor spun to find the source.
"Rose?" He breathed. She stood a few feet away from him, leaning back against the rail surrounding the upper deck of the console room. "How…?" She wore faded jeans and a black hoodie over a bright pink top, her arms loosely crossed over her chest.
"It doesn't matter," she said, shaking her head. There was a difference about her. Just a subtle difference, a change in the air, the aura that surrounded her. But what was it? She tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear and he jolted.
Her hair was longer. A lot longer. What else…?
"Are you…?" He moved toward her, growing hesitant only as he reached her. She took his hand, pressing it to her cheek.
"I'm whatever you want me to be." He snorted out a laugh through the sob that was clawing up his throat.
"If that were true, the situation would've been a lot different." She flicked her fingers through the hair that fell across his forehead but something felt wrong about her touch.
"How did you get here?" He finally whispered.
"You wanted me here," she whispered back.
"Rose, I've wanted you back for years, it sure took you long enough."
"Oi!" She said, giving him a little shove. "Maybe you just didn't wish it loud enough."
"Are you back, then? Are you, really?" He brought his other hand up to her shoulder, his thumb lightly brushing the side of her neck.
"I told you I'd never leave you, didn't I? I'll always be with you, Doctor." He felt the tears well up and refused to blink, lest they fall. Rose smiled, not the mischievous little grin she always gave him, but a genuine, heartfelt smile. Her touch as her hand pressed against his chest, directly over his right heart, was almost unbearably light.
"This isn't real, is it?"
"It's as real as you want it to be. If you want me with you, then I'm with you. If not, I'll move on." There was that quality again, that nagging voice that insisted that something was just left of right.
"This is a dream," he whispered. He leaned forward, lightly brushing his lips over Rose's, lips that were almost unbearably cold to his normally cool ones. "This is a dream, this is just my mind messing with me."
"It's not a dream. I am here." He slicked his hand over her long, golden locks, longer even than when he'd met her, but she didn't respond to the touch.
"You can't give up, Doctor." He pulled back, confused, letting her hand fall from his chest.
"You're giving up," she said, softly. "How often have you been sleeping? How little have you been eating? You have to move on. You will never get to me. Not in Pete's World."
"I can't believe that," he whispered harshly, shaking his head. "I can't. I have to trust the impossible. I have to know I'll make it back to you someday."
"And what happens if you get to Pete's World and I'm gone? Dead, whether by accident or time? And you strand yourself, there? How could you cause yourself that much pain?"
"If it happens, then I'll deal with it. It's only a fraction of the pain I've caused you."
"A wise person told me once, Doctor," she said quietly, "that in order to feel love, you have to feel pain. You can't pick and choose what emotions you feel. If you open your heart to feeling love for someone, you get to feel all the other messy emotions that come along with it. It was my choice."
"Rose…" He almost groaned under the weight of her words, his eyes fluttering closed as her cool hand came up to his cheek.
"Don't give up. You have so much good yet to do."
"I can't." The tears came freely now. "Not without you."
"I'm just a silly little ape, Doctor—"
"Never! I never meant that about you—"
"Don't give up. It's just the hurt you're hiding, because you're lost inside. I'm here for you. I told you I'd always be here for you. You told me once, everyone wants to be loved. You are. You are."
"Let me come for you. Tell me how to find you," he whispered urgently, his brown eyes searching hers. He attempted to kiss her again, but he shuddered at the coolness of her lips.
"You'll find me when it's time."
"Don't be so bloody cryptic," he bit out. "Just tell me!"
"You can't come to me where I am. Not yet." He was silent as he processed her words. Understanding flickered through his eyes and he knew there was a look of horror, of utter pain crossing his face, a look he couldn't prevent. He also knew it was only a tenth of what he felt inside.
"You're dead," he whispered. She didn't respond at all, just looked at him with the maddeningly calm smile. "You're dead, oh, Rose." He pulled her into his arms, into his embrace, pressing her small frame against his own lanky one and suddenly it all made sense.
How she'd just appeared. The ethereal quality to her still solid form, the coldness in a touch that had otherwise been burning hot.
"I'm here for you," she repeated. "Don't give up. It's just the weight of the world. When your heart's heavy, I'll lift it for you. I'm here for you. I'll always be with you."
He was unable to stop the tears that rolled down his cheeks, unable to repress the hiccupping sob that tore from his throat.
"It'll be all right, Doctor. I promise." He nodded and pulled back, wiping his suit coat sleeve across his eyes. He stood there for a moment, staring into middle distance. There were so many thoughts swirling through his head, he couldn't possibly put voice to them all. How had she died? How old was she? Did she think of him? Did she move on, get married, have a family? He turned back to look at her. Had she been happy
Never happier than when I was with you, her voice floated to him in his head and he gave her a weak smile.
"I'll be waiting for you, when you're ready," she said softly. She slid her hand into the hair at the nape of his neck and pulled him down to press her soft lips against his. When he opened his eyes, she was gone.
When the Doctor died for the final time, many years later, he finally, finally felt free of the burden he had carried for centuries. He climbed easily from his body and looked down at his broken form.
His only regret was that he had died before his companion had returned to him. He checked to make sure the note he'd left on the psychic paper was still in his suit coat before patting his body on the shoulder and turning away.
The first thing he saw were the trainers. They were so much like his own, only a bright, candy-coated pink. The occupant must have noticed his look because the toes in the Chucks before him suddenly wiggled.
He looked up and saw Rose's bright, smiling face. He grinned.
"I told you I'd be here. Took you long enough," she teased. She took his hand.
Her touch was warm.
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