Disclaimer: I'm only playing with them. I'll put them back when I'm done, honest.

A/N: Oneshot. Angsty, but more intended to be character introspection and romance. A tiny bit of M, as well.

Spoilers: All of series 1 and 2, just to be safe. Although, if you don't know what happens, you've probably been living off-planet, at this point.

Summary: Every waking moment, since the first time, he remembers that dream and he can't help but think this is the last time I'll hold her hand or this is the last time I'll be able to hug her or this is the last time I'll see her smile because some day, one day, it will really be the last time.


She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her

She's Got a Way, Billy Joel


The Doctor wakes with a shuddering gasp, the images in his mind warring with the blackness of his bedroom, played out like scene after scene of a movie. He collapses back on his pillows, pressing a hand to his sweat-slicked chest, feeling his hearts pounding so hard he's surprised they didn't burst free.

Groaning, he rubs his hands over his face.

If it had been any normal nightmare—the War, being shown time and again what a monster he was, or even just something that had happened to him during his centuries of travelling—he could deal. Squash it down, shove it aside, lock the door again.

As futile as it might be, even if the dreams always returned, he could always lock them away, stay up for days and weeks and ignore them until he foolishly succumbed to sleep again.

But this dream…oh, this dream.

He will never forget this one, not until he finally died.

Obviously, it was just a dream. He had never stood where he had in that dream, did what he'd done. Neither had Rose, he was positive.

Climbing from his bed, he doesn't bother pulling a shirt on over his loose cotton pants. He steps into the hallway, squinting for a moment, the dim light almost searing after the utter darkness of his room.

He pads barefoot down the hall toward Rose's room. The TARDIS never keeps her room far from his. He isn't sure if it was for her or him, but usually he's glad she

's close, though he doesn't make a habit of going into her room. He respects her privacy just like he trusts her to respect his.

He places a cool hand against the smooth, hard surface of Rose's closed door. He can sense her inside, sleeping heavily and peacefully.

Safe.

Letting out a deep breath, he scrubs his free hand over his close-cropped hair. He forces himself to relax and lets his hand slide down to the door knob. Assuring himself he was just checking to make sure she was okay, he silently turns the knob and slides into the room as soon as he could fit.

He slowly, carefully shuts the door behind him and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Her room is never as dark as his. She keeps the TARDIS lights on low, as low as they could be and still be on, but still much lighter than his own pitch black room. He adjusts easily and sees the mound of blankets on her bed that is her. He always told her that her magenta duvet made his eyes bleed and he wasn't that far off from the truth.

The pink mountain twitches and undulates as Rose rolls over beneath it and he hears her little sigh of contentment, mirroring it with one of his own.

He moves closer and sits on the edge of her large bed, leaning over and peering at her. She doesn't sleep under the covers like normal people, she sleeps cocooned in them, with them wrapped completely around her.

He watches her sleeping, listening to her soft breathing and murmurs as she sleeps.


He isn't sure exactly when he'd he dozed off and sitting up, no less. He only knows it's happened when he feels something brush across his upper arm, causing him to jerk awake.

Rubbing a hand over his face, he looks down and sees Rose looking up at him sleepily.

"Wha's wrong, Doctor?" She mumbles. She rubs her bare cheek against his bicep again, closing her eyes.

"Don't fall asleep, Rose. I'm okay."

"Mm…I'm not asleep. Why're you here?" She blinks rapidly, frowning up at him. "Did you have a nightmare?"

"Yeah. I'm okay, though." He shoots her a grin, but he knows it lacks its usual lustre. "You can go back to sleep."

She leans her head against his shoulder and yawns.

"'M okay. Wanna talk about it?"

"Not right now. Maybe later, yeah? Really, go ahead and sleep." He shifts, putting an arm around her shoulders, barely feeling her small body through the thickness of the magenta duvet. She leans back and tugs on his arm.

"You lay down, too. You need sleep."

"Rose…"

"C'mon, Doctor." She scoots closer to the wall, keeping a surprisingly strong grip on his arm. He only fights back half-heartedly, allowing her to pull him down into a lying position.

She wriggles until she can grip his arms and pull them around her, beneath the duvet. He lays on his side, holding her, sighing softly as she snuggles into him, her head on his shoulder. He leans his head against hers and closes his eyes.


He listens to Mickey with half an ear. He's found, since his regeneration, he's had no problem actually holding a conversation with the stupid ape, especially if it involves mechanics of some sort. The younger man knows what he's talking about and the Doctor has even invited him a couple times, on some of their longer stay-overs, to help him make adjustments and fine tunings to the more mundane parts of the console.

He can't like Mickey, simply on principle. He is Rose's ex and therefore he is his Mortal Enemy, even if the Doctor never intends on acting on his feelings regarding one Rose Tyler.

He looks up when he feels the eyes on him and as soon as his brown eyes meet hers, a slow smile crosses her face. He feels and acknowledges the hitch in his breathing, the skip in the tandem beat of his hearts and grins back, lifting his mug of tea a bit in mock salute. She rolls her eyes, her smile widening into that little grin, the one where her tongue pokes out between her teeth and looks away.

Tuning Mickey completely out, he thinks back to the first time he'd been in this flat and gleefully ignores the memory of Jackie's come-on attempt. All night, after he'd blown up the transmitter on the roof of Henrik's, he'd found his thoughts of searching for the Nestene Consciousness warring with his thoughts of the small, saucy little blonde that had questioned him and his actions from the get-go.

She had been the first person in that incarnation that he'd had even the remotest interest in. He'd been interested, but shocked, too. After what he'd done, he didn't expect to feel that way about anyone again, period. He wouldn't have admitted it at the time, but his interest in her had been sexual as well as emotional and intellectual from the beginning, even if he hadn't realised it.

What had been most important, at that time in his life, was someone who not only challenged him, but understood him. Maybe she doesn't know his entire sordid past, maybe she would never know the reason why he sometimes acts as he does. But she accepts it and accepts him and because of that she makes the struggle, willingly, to understand him.

That means the world to him and she doesn't even realise.


His eyes dance happily as he watches her working out a problem. He'd long since come up with the answer, but he delights in teaching her and there is most likely nothing in the world that could make him happier than seeing her learn, in seeing that first flash of understanding spark in those expressive eyes, watching her as she chews her bottom lip, a frown line furrowing between her dark brows.

She grips his hand, tugging a little, causing him to stumble slightly as she jerks to a stop. In an excited whisper, she tells him her answer and gives a little giggling shriek of delight as she throws her arms around his neck and he can't help but lift her up in a bear hug, holding her tight against his body as he spins her around once.

She wriggles free as he sets her back on her feet as she grabs his hand once more and takes off, tugging him behind her.

Once again, they save the day and this time more lives are saved than lost and they're walking down the street back toward the TARDIS, hand in hand as always. Again, her giddy voice reverberates through his body and he watches more than listens, but can he be blamed?

Every waking moment, since the first time, he remembers that dream and he can't help but think this is the last time I'll hold her hand or this is the last time I'll be able to hug her or this is the last time I'll see her smile because some day, one day, it will really be the last time.

Only, he'll forget, he'll take her for granted again and he'll never forgive himself for not having one last time and who would hold his hand then?

And if she notices that he's held her hand a bit more often, a bit tighter or hugged her a bit more frequently or a bit longer, recently, she doesn't say anything. She wants more, he knows she does and he wants it, too.

He's scared. Scared of commitment and scared of losing her, all in one messed up, jumbled up package.

He readily acknowledges this, even as Rose stops and looks up at the sky and he studies her profile, revelling in the fact that she's his and he's hers for as long as they can manage.

Not forever, because there is no such thing as forever, not even for a Time Lord.

The dream has shown him that much.


She never asks him about his life or about the War and he's never told her as much as he should have. He should've told her about regeneration, should've told her about him, his history, his family, even his name. He should've told her about Jack, he should've warned her about his dream.

But he never does. He plays ignorant, because if he doesn't think about it, it doesn't exist and he can go on pretending that the Universe revolves around them, just for a little longer.


He realises that if it hadn't been for finding her in the basement of that blasted (quite literally, at this point) department store, he wouldn't be alive now. He hates to be macabre and normally isn't terribly so, but the simple fact of the matter is that he'd had a death wish when he'd met her and had never intended to pick up another companion. He'd simply wanted to go on as he was until he was too slow, too stupid, too something to win and finally ended the agony that had become his existence.

Because, he knows now, that's all it had been in the years between the War and the moment he met Rose Tyler. That's all it was, just existence.

Rose gave him life again, gives him life and his reason for living, his reason for fighting to return home and to her at the end of the day.

Sometimes he dreams of Bad Wolf and how effectively his life has changed because of that one moment. Not just the obvious things, like his regeneration (and besides, that was long past and he's pretty sure she's over it) but the little things.

Little things like realising maybe, just maybe, Rose Tyler isn't a liar and isn't lying when she says she intends to stay with him forever. She doesn't know that she means her forever, not his because hers is so much shorter than his, so every time her soft, full lips mutter the word "forever," his hearts break a little more because he knows forever is fleeting.

Little things like realising that maybe he underestimated the determination of the human race. He knew from the beginning that she was strong and she was willing, but the absolute power she harvested just because she didn't want him to die floors him, even to this day, if he lets himself think about it.

If he criticises the human race, the stupid apes, he can see her frown out of the corner of his eye, thinking he means her, too, but he doesn't. Never, no, not her because she may be an ape, but she's the last thing from stupid.


It takes a hard blow, not quite literally, for him to understand that love is so much more than what he thinks it is. Maybe he thinks he used to be in love, centuries and centuries ago, but now he isn't quite so sure.

Even after meeting Reinette, falling head over heels for her, he thinks maybe, maybe this is love, but at the same time he knows it isn't because all the while he hears Rose, Rose, Rose in the back of his head like an incessant drum. He accepts the inevitable and ignores the actuality, knowing he's stuck on the slow path, without Rose, but with Reinette and that makes it okay.

But then Reinette shows him a path home and his mind is gleeful. He knows he can return to Rose and his shoulders feel so much lighter, but then he turns and sees the crestfallen look on Reinette's face and once again, he wants what he can't have.


He grieves, not quite openly, but he knows he can't hide it from Rose, no matter how hard he tries. He's grateful to Mickey when he drags Rose away, but all too soon and not soon enough, she's back, standing in the doorway to the corridor, waiting patiently for him to accept her.

He turns toward her and she moves close, lets him lean against her, maybe a little more heavily than he might otherwise, but she's strong and he knows she can bear the load.

He thinks of everything he's lost and gained in a millennium, in a second, and one bright shining point pulls him home and it's Rose, always Rose. She isn't the first woman he's loved, far from it, and she won't be last. But he loves her and he accepts that, too, and that makes the inevitable separation a little bit less scary.

He knows he'll only have ten, fifteen, forty years with her before she leaves, before she decides she's had enough of the fast lane and wants to settle and rest her aching bones, start a family and trod down the slow path, but he tells himself that a year, ten or twenty is better than none at all and that makes it hurt a little bit less.


He kisses her, whether he realises it at first or not, but he does and he doesn't regret it. He feels her lips warm under his and the sparks of electricity that course through his body as her tongue flicks hesitantly over his.

He hears the groan but he's not sure if it's his or hers and he doesn't really care, either. All too soon, or not soon enough, her naked body is beneath his, slick skin rubbing over slick skin and then he's inside her and she's gasping and he understands that this is the one thing he's lived 993 years for, this moment, to be inside Rose Tyler, just like this.

They're moving and he's so deep inside her that he couldn't separate them if he wanted to and he doesn't, so he kicks that thought from his mind as his climax starts. And then she's screaming, groaning, gasping his name over and over as her beautiful body milks his, so primitive and earthy, but so human and so, so Rose.

He lays his head on her chest, his body trembling as her fingers stroke fire through his hair and down his back and he knows he made a mistake in keeping her at arm's length for so long and vows that she won't even be half that length from him again, for as long as her forever lasts.


He realises, when he sees her on the view screen, when he's separated from her in Torchwood, that she's wearing the top she wore in his dream and he should never have let her leave the TARDIS that morning.

His heart is in his throat the entire time and every time Rose makes an offhand comment about surviving, getting out, moving on, he wants to grab her and shake her and scream at her and yell at her.

He calls her stupid, but only in his mind because she isn't, really, she just didn't have the same dream as him.

He makes the decision, a decision he hates and knows she'll hate and hate him for, but he makes it anyway and he sends her to Pete's World.

Rose is his saviour and all that matters is her safety, her life.

She comes back, just like before, only not like before, and he's secretly happy inside even though he tells her how stupid she is for sacrificing herself, her family, her life for someone like him.

And then she's ripped away from him, but alive. Dead but not. Safe but gone, gone, gone. The Universe's eternal joke on the Doctor.

And he remembers why he said he didn't do domestic, even though he was. He remembers why he always walks away, even though he didn't.

He remembers why he doesn't fall in love, even though he is.

fin


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