Summary: He finds a way back, but it's not the way he imagined.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, obviously.
Author's notes: So, three in the morning, I decide to write a reunion-fic out of the blue. I think my half-asleep brain was saying something about social experiments and fandom commentary, though that might have been the ramen talking...
By Dagniro Vanaliel
He's done it.
Five years, through countless journeys and unmeasurable distances, he's found the way.
Stumbled upon it, more like, he thinks, and smiles to himself. Just as he's always done.
But it doesn't matter how it happened or why. All that matters is that he's here--London, Earth, a constant droning murmur and the sunlight glinting off the shells of dozens of zeppelins that pepper the blue sky above.
Never mind that fifteen years have passed in this world rather than only five in his.
Finding her is easier than he'd thought. She's a prominent figure in society, and he smiles as her name comes up as head of Torchwood Institute. As for her private life... information is scarce. He doesn't know if she has children, if she's married, if she's single, if she's happy...
It's the last one that gets him more than anything. In the pictures he receives on his computer screen, she's smiling. Her bright, shining smile that once lit up his whole world and he hopes will do so once more. He can't tell if it's fake--the resolution isn't good enough--but he hopes it's real.
He doesn't want to see her miserable and alone.
A quick glance in a mirror and he wonders if he wants her to see him like this. He's hurting from the loss, even now, even after all these years. He hasn't been able to truly move on.
Why have you tortured me so? It's a question he's never been able to answer. With every other companion, he just moved on. She was nothing special. Just another girl.
Only... She was. She was special. She'd meant something more to him than all the others, and when she left, a little bit of him died. When he'd met her, he was still mourning the loss of his people and his home. He'd been a broken, damaged man, and... she'd saved him.
That's why she means so much. She's saved me from myself.
And that's why he has to see her. He has to get her back.
He arrives at Torchwood and expects questions. He expects people to mob him, to challenge him, at the very least to recognize him. Something.
None of that happens. He just strolls on through and gets nothing. He's ignored by everyone.
He approaches the front desk and asks for Rose Tyler's office. The secretary tells him the way without any other questions, but he doesn't miss the knowing smile she gives him, for a split second, before returning to her computer screen. He thanks the woman and continues on.
Her office is at the very top, behind a heavy wooden door with Rose Tyler--Torchwood Head inscribed in gold lettering. He hesitates only a moment before knocking.
"Come in." The voice is the one he remembers from so long ago, familiar and yet more distant than ever. His throat tightens as he turns the handle and slowly pushes open the door.
Their eyes meet. He fights back tears. She gapes open-mouthed.
Neither says anything for a long time, but finally it is he who breaks the silence.
"Hello, Rose Tyler," he says. She stands up and walks over to him.
"Hello, Doctor," she says, and he sees something in her eyes. Something he can't understand.
She makes them a cup of tea and plops him down in a chair. He follows along with her silly little ritual despite the ticking clock--two hours before the bridge closes, this time for good. The only reasoning he can come up with is that he's happy to endure her domestics, a part of her he finds so endearing, because all he can think about is how thrilled he is to see her.
And how calm and sad she seems.
"Doctor... I am happy to see you," Rose says. "Honestly, I am. But... It's been fifteen years. I knew you'd left. I knew there was no chance. I moved on with my life."
He says nothing. There's nothing he can say.
"I have a family," she continues. "I have a husband and three children. I have a job I love. I--"
She has to stop talking because the Doctor's lips are on hers, and she shivers slightly at the touch before pulling away.
"No. I can't do this any more. I'm sorry." She doesn't meet his eyes. "Maybe once I would have jumped at the chance. Maybe once I would have left in a heartbeat. But I can't."
He nods, forcing back tears that threaten to escape. He doesn't tell her about the time difference, that for him it's been only five years while it's been fifteen for her. He doesn't say anything about the Rose who would have torn the world apart for a chance to be back together.
"You're happy," he says softly. "That's all that matters. Goodbye, Rose Tyler. I love you."
With those, his last words to her, he leaves. She's happy, and she's moved on--something he should have done a long time ago.
I should have known.