I need you.
"So, where to next?" he asks desperately, hands dancing over the controls of the TARDIS. "I can take you to a planet full of fairies or one that has seven suns."
Rose is silent and he bites his lip in patent anguish.
"How about Kip'jurarrah?" he says with forced joviality. "They have the most amazing chips? No? Pink elephants of Juno? Migrating butterflies with pogo sticks? Sugar rainbows?"
Rose says nothing and he turns to face her for the first time.
She isn't looking at him, instead her arms are folded over her chest and she's staring at the metal grated floor like it holds all the answers in the universe.
It makes him feel so very alone, even though she's right there.
"What can I do, Rose?" The Doctor spreads his hands apart in helplessness and looks at her with wide puppy eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Rose just nods, knowing that he is as sorry as he sounds.
He's sorry that he dropped them on a planet in the middle of a war. He's sorry that he lost her and took four days to get her back. He's sorry that she had to find her own way out. He's sorry for the blood on her hands and the actions on her conscience. He's sorry about the things she saw and the things she did.
Just like he's sorry about Sarah Jane, just like he's sorry about Reinette and the space station; just like he's sorry about everything.
She looks down at her blood splattered hands and wonders what happened to her to make her think that this was okay, that this was the way that things had to be.
Something splashes onto her hand and she realises that one solitary tear has tracked its way through the mud and grease on her face to fall onto her palm, diluting the blood to pink in one spot.
The Doctor takes one step forward, as if to throw his arms around her in comfort but she flinches, knowing that this is the last thing that she needs.
She couldn't cope with that, can't cope with him. Can't cope with flighty feelings and mixed signals; can't cope with caring looks and the cold shoulder; can't cope with hearty embraces and absent platitudes; can't cope with needing comfort and wondering if he's thinking of someone else.
He notes her hesitation and stops, pain crossing his face at her reluctance to allow him near. But he knows that it's no more than he deserves.
"What can I do, Rose?" he begs. "Tell me what to do and I'll do it, anything. I have the…" He looks around his home and, for once, the whole of space and time isn't enough. It can't possibly make up for what she's lost.
He feels more than helpless and wonders if this is it, if this will be the moment he truly loses her.
Her eyes close against the gentle ebb and flow of his voice and she wishes herself a million miles away, ironic, really, since they probably are a million miles away from where they were seconds ago. After all he does have the whole of time and space at his disposal.
The whole of time and space and yet all she wants she can't really have. She can't be in the one place and time that she really wants.
Or maybe she can, maybe it's time.
"Lupril 17th," she whispers, "3124, planet of Galacir. Toureen Market."
His mouth opens and shuts as the words echo in the air, the precision of her destination causing questions to abound.
He doesn't think he's even been to that planet, let alone in that time and he wonders what could possibly be there for her, what makes that the only possible place she wants to go.
"Why?" he asks curiously but Rose won't answer and he makes his way over to the console, setting the co-ordinates with one careful eye on the still form standing in the centre of the control room..
She says nothing and stares at the pulsating console remembering when it was a comfort rather than a menace; remembers when it meant adventure and fun and not pain and heartbreak.
She'd taken a hand that offered protection and safety and adventure and those fingers had slipped away, to be replaced by ones that tugged her into hurt and horror.
The TARDIS seems to understand Rose's frame of mind and grants her a short journey, shortening the awkward time in the room where he can't say a word and she won't.
It's an uneasy silence that is almost icy, filled with accusations and apologies.
The TARDIS lands without the usual bump and Rose is by the door before the whirring stops.
"Rose?" he calls as her hand twists the door knob. "Why here?"
She opens her mouth and then closes it again, unable to explain. She backs away from the hurt in his eyes and closes the door behind her, ducking into the bustling market town like she lives there.
She knows that the Doctor will follow her, unwilling to let her go on an alien planet alone and she speeds up, not wanting him to see where she's going. She doesn't need an audience for this. She's thought about it so many times recently, but always managed to talk herself out of it as a bad idea but now, now she doesn't care.
Forget all that she's learned and all that she's experienced, sometimes a girl has to do what she needs, even if it means breaking some rules.
It might be her last journey with the Doctor, she might ask to go home and all she knows is that she needs this.
It's easy to find her way and she's almost surprised at how her memory takes her back through the crowded streets, through the alien bazaar and down the alleyways towards the hidden parts of town.
She slides a board aside and ducks under another until she's standing in the warehouse district. It's a very quick four steps to an open alley and there it is.
There she is.
A big blue box that she knew would be there, just where she'd left it that morning so long ago.
Rose edges closer, her brain and blood pounding as she knocks on the wooden door.
It takes thirty seconds for it to open and Rose spends every single one trying to push away how wrong this is.
But all is forgotten when it does open and he stands there, face set in irritation at being interrupted.
That expression changes so rapidly to surprise, pleasure and finally confusion at seeing her.
"Rose, what—I thought you were with Jack?"
His northern accent is more pronounced and it hurts how much about him she's already forgotten.
Rose reaches up with trembling, blood covered hands to touch her lips, signalling silence and his eyes widen as he takes in her fingers.
He grasps her slim hands and tugs her into the warmth of his presence. "Rose? What is it? Are you hurt? Is it Jack? Are you okay?"
She shakes her head twice and she's in his arms before she can say anything.
He hauls her up against him and for a second she can forget everything. She can forget the screams of the dying in her head; she can forget the blood that soaks bodies and the corpses of small children that lay scattered on the ground. She can forget leers of men and laughs of women and dirt and danger and cold and fear and just feel the soft wool under her cheek that always told her she was safe.
Her hands claw into the green jumper and she holds on tight, tight, tighter, trying to lose herself in his strong embrace.
"Rose?" His eyes are wide and panicked now. "What is it? Tell me what's wrong. Where are you hurt?"
"Everywhere," she whispers, feeling anguish in every cell as it screams at her how wrong this is. Rose knows she shouldn't be there and she should never see him again and she closes her eyes against the pain of separation and reality.
He pulls her back, his hands checking over her body for injury. "Med bay, now."
She shakes her head against his chest. "Can't see it, it's all in my head."
The Doctor stills and his hands tentatively reach up to her temples. She knows he wants to see who's violated her mind and can feel the anger starting to ebb off him at the perceived injury, but Rose stops him before he can try to read her mind.
She steps back and just looks at him, gaze taking in every line, every wrinkle and each individual characteristic. "No, Doctor. I'm … I'm from your future."
He starts to back away in protest of her being there, knowing better than most of the dangers of paradoxes and personal time lines.
Rose grabs for him, pleading entering into her voice. "I won't tell you anything. I won't say anything about the future, or why or what happens or how or anything. I know about Reapers and paradoxes and I won't say a word. But I ..." tears spill from her eyes as she says the words, "I need you."
There is no hesitation as he opens his arms and she falls into them, crying harshly. He leans down and picks her up like a child, cradling her against his chest and carries her over to the chair next to the console. He sits and pulls her into his lap, rocking her as she sobs.
Tears fall down her cheeks in an unstoppable torrent, smearing days old make-up and smudging mud and grit. The sobs wrack her shoulders and send her body shuddering against his frame, unable to hear his muttered words over the sounds she makes.
She feels his hand stroke her hair and it makes her cry harder, she's in a safe haven and she doesn't care about seeming weak and pathetic, she doesn't care about anything but these two arms and unloading the rock from her heart.
She weeps for herself and for those who died. She cries for all she lost and all she's seen. She whimpers over the memories and wails for the children. She bawls over his death and howls over his new form.
"I hate you," she chokes, ineffectually slapping at his body with her tiny fists. "I hate you! I hate you."
"I know," he soothes from somewhere in her hair, his lips against her temple. "I know. I'm sorry I had to go."
That makes her look up, wondering if she's let something slip amidst her incoherent sobbing. "I didn't say …"
"You didn't have to." He leans over to plant a kiss on her forehead somehow making it all better with that one gesture; affectionate and loving and she just knows how much he cares about her.
Rose sniffs and leans her head against his broad shoulder. "Sorry."
He takes her hands in his and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a handkerchief. He starts to rub off the blood.
"You can't tell me what happens to me but I can guess; me being all clever and that."
She laughs damply as he spits on the square of cloth and starts to rub harder at the stains on her fingers.
"You're from the future and since you're here there must be another me here. If it was this me then you wouldn't need me, you'd have him. So, it must be the next me, who seems to be something of a prat."
Rose manages another sputter of laughter and a small grin at that triumph peaks through his hard expression.
"For one he let you cross time streams which means I either forget today's date and place, which might not be a bad idea," he says gently as he starts to clean her face, "Or else he screwed up so fantastically that he had no choice. Either means he's a prat. So, adding it all together, blood plus Rose plus crying plus future means I'm gone and he's a prat."
"Semi-prat." She holds two fingers slightly apart. "He's still you."
"Thanks for that," he says ruefully. "I was hoping I'd improve with age."
Rose says nothing, just memorising the way that this feels. She tries to commit the way his fingers feel against her face to memory. She wants this moment when she's back, she wants to remember what it was like to have his undivided attention on her.
He allows her the silence until he's finished cleaning her face and hands and then he pulls her back against his chest.
"So where am I?"
Rose shrugs not caring. "Left you in the TARDIS, I think you might try to follow but you never left the TARDIS here when Jack and we were here. So you don't know it like me and Jack … or the date since you're a little out."
"How much out?" he asks affronted.
"Three hundred years," Rose laughs again sadly, "and two solar systems."
Rose nods and leans against him again, allowing the last of her tears to drift onto his jumper.
They sit in silence as he rocks her and strokes her hair. Rose feels his double heartbeat against her cheek and feels content and comforted for the first time in months.
She never wants to leave him embrace and it hurts that she'll have to.
"I don't really hate you," she whispers and feels him smile against her hair.
"I'm so tired of being hurt and needing you and it not being you." Rose closes her eyes. "You say it is but I can't feel you in there. New New Doctor. I don't know what to say or do anymore. You say that the outside package may change but the inner man is still there and that it doesn't matter because you are still the same inside. Well, it does. It matters to me. We fight without saying a word and it hurts and then you act as if it's all right again. You can't give me the universe as a consolation for not being there, you can't!"
"Do you even care anymore?" She knows it's unfair to unload this on him, it isn't even his fault, but this was building since she found herself trapped on a space station. "Why won't you just tell me to leave?"
"Hey!" He pets her cheek and pulls her up to look deep in both her eyes. "Done this before, I have. I remember who I was. May not like the bloke but I generally have the same bits, just a bit rearranged. If he let you come here, odds are he's feeling every inch a prat and much more. He needs you, Rose. He isn't me, but I know me enough to know that he feels bad about whatever it he's done to get you to this point and, unless I'm very much mistaken, and I'm rarely mistaken, being a genius and all. He's back in the TARDIS biting his nails and wondering if you want to leave him." He caresses her cheek with the back of his hand. "He does care, Rose, because he brought you here. If he didn't want you around he'd dump you back on Earth with Ricky and your mum."
"I miss you so much," she confesses and he grins.
"What, this daft old face?"
She nods and his expression softens. "I can't change back, Rose."
"Did you ask him that?" he asks and at her nod he grimaces. "Bet he loved that. Always stings when a companion can't accept the new you."
"I can," Rose protests.
"Can you?" his tone isn't accusatory, but it is deliberate. "Then what's this for?" he reaches up and traces one tear track. "Bad experience or memories of a past you can't have again."
"That's not fair."
"Does he even know?"
"He pushes me away."
"So did I, what did you do? Hm?" he raises an eyebrow. "You pushed back. The Rose Tyler I know won't take this lying down. If he's being a prat then stop him."
Rose lets out a deep breath and rubs her head. "I'm drained."
He shifts so that she's looking directly into his deep blue eyes and there are as intense as she can remember. "Don't leave unless it's what you really want, Rose. I'm glad I got to have you through all this life. If he's even half who I am he won't want you to go. He might be a bit of a prat, but he knows that it's better with two."
It is better with two, Rose knows that.
It is better when they run along hand in hand; when her hand is empty she hates it. It is better to have two in a cell, two to chase aliens and two to solve clues.
It's better to run across the universe with two, to share chips and friends and time.
Alone it wouldn't be fun and he wouldn't last as long. She knows it and for the first time she feels strong enough to accept it.
"I won't leave you. I promised you that." Rose grabs his hand and holds it against her face, relishing the contact. "I'll never go voluntarily. You'll have to make me."
Words fail him and he simply tugs her to him and kisses her, deeply and intensely.
When he pulls away she's crying again and his face falls.
"I'm not that bad, am I?"
"I waited so long for that. You know I—, yeah?"
He understands what she wants to say and nods. "Yeah, I know. And you know?"
And she does; always did.
"My Rose Tyler." He swallows hard and pushes away the emotion of the moment. "Maybe you should be getting back. The other you and Jack should be back soon."
Rose slips off his lap, gathering herself together. "Yeah, he'll be worried."
The Doctor nods and stand up, sliding his hands into his pockets. "Right."
It's so heart-breakingly familiar that she starts to choke up again. His leather jacket cast over the railings; his green jumper making his blue eyes sparkle; the rough contours of his face, his soft mouth and caring expression.
"I love you," she can't help but say, the words tripping so easily off her tongue. "Don't forget that, yeah?"
"Off you go," he says with his own hearts in his eyes.
Rose opens the TARDIS and starts to step out when his voice interrupts.
"Just tell me one thing?"
Rose turns. "What?"
"The next me?" He shuffles his feet and looks embarrassed to be asking. "Am I ginger?"
A sob bursts from her lips, masquerading as laughter. "You … you're gorgeous."
He grins. "Fantastic!"
She closes the door behind her, knowing that he's watching on the TARDIS monitor and dries her tears.
The whole of time and space and all she needed was five minutes with her Doctor. He probably remembers this now. He will have remembered Rose walking into the TARDIS crying and covered with blood. He'll recall his words and hers. But he won't know how it ends, won't know if she stays with the future him.
And neither does she.
She walks slowly back to her own TARDIS and the new Doctor who is sitting in the console room nibbling on his nails, anxiety in every pore.
He isn't me, but I know me enough to know that he's back in the TARDIS biting his nails and wondering if you want to leave him.
His head snaps up as she walks in and he gives her a hopeful look, rifling his hand through his hair. "All right, Rose?"
Is she all right?
She stares at the pulsating column and thinks about seeing it for the first time when she dashed into the TARDIS to escape her boring life. She thinks about the damaged man who desperately needed her along with him but refused to allow her close.
She thinks about how much he grew to love her and need her and she wonders if this man is really that different.
If he let you come here, odds are he's feeling every inch a prat and much more. He needs you, Rose.
And she needs him. Really, what would her life be without him? She wouldn't have the memories of blood and death, but neither would she be able to see dogs with no noses and Charles Dickens and cat nuns.
Was life with the Doctor worth getting your heart broken over?
"Yeah," she sighs and allows him a smile. "I'm all right."
"Did you—did you get what you needed?" His voice is so hesitating, pleading with her to tell him that his words helped, that they made this just that little bit better.
"Yes." She stares dead in his eyes. "Thank you."
A smile plays around his mouth, even though his eyes are still nervous. "So, right, where to now?"
Rose watches as his hands hover over the controls, and she can almost see him wondering whether or not to set course for Earth, whether now she'll ask to be taken home.
It is better with two.
"I think I'd like to see those pink elephants."
A grin breaks over his face, euphoric and untamed, showing her that he is, deep down, the same man. "Fantastic."