Five Ways Rose Didn't Reunite with the Doctor - and One Way She Did
by Camilla Sandman

Disclaimer: BBC's characters. My words.

Author's Note: Spoilers for Doomsday. Some references to classic Who, a specific spoilery one for "Earthshock". Partly inspired by some recent speculation, but not really spoilery for season four in any way.

II

Lose someone you love, and you can't help but imagine changing that. Wishful thinking, inability to deal with the loss, fantasy, will to fight what had happened, dreaming of the impossible - it could be one of those and all of, but it always seemed to happen to some degree.

Rose Tyler lost her Doctor. Or maybe he lost his Rose, depending on what angle you tilted from. It hurt. She lived on, that little imagination living with her.

Sometimes, she imagined he crossed over, sweeping her up in a hug and declaring where she was, he was. Sometimes, she imagined she had never lost her grip at all, still spending mad adventures with him as they always had. Sometimes, she just imagined him and her and hands held, no setting needed. Sometimes, she imagined slapping him and snogging him both, both seeming equally desirable. (Promise a girl the Universe and forever. Give her a beach in Norway and the unspoken. If that's not slap-worthy, nothing is.)

Sometimes, she would craft a whole scenario. His confusion at seeing her. His overwhelming hug. His admission of what she already knows. His hand in hers. His promise they wouldn't be parted again. The life thereafter, perfect.

Time passed, as its job is. Hurt lessened. Rose grew. Years came. Years left. Mickey learned.

Mickey built.

And the impossible is possible, like she dreamed of.

It's still going to be nothing like she imagined.

II

"Ow!" Rose says sharply, feeling floor connect with behind - a disagreeable experience always, but even more so when coupled with the speed of cross-timedimensional travel. Or something like that. "Who placed the stupid floor there?"

"That would be me."

The voice isn't the Doctor's, is her first thought. The face isn't either, is her second, looking up. This is an old man, hair white and lines across his face. This is... A white TARDIS?

"Sorry - you wouldn't happen to know if the Doctor has redecorated in here, would you?" she asks hopefully. Maybe he's just picked up some interesting company.

The man raises an eyebrow, something that stirs a faint memory in her. "Young lady, I AM the Doctor."

Oh. Right place. Wrong time. Mickey did say it would be a bit hard aiming this across the Void, didn't he? That's why he gave her a little device to let her come back. All she has to do is push the button.

"I'm Rose Tyler," she says, accepting a hand as he helps her up. "Um. Remember me?"

"No."

Too early, then. At least she hopes so.

"Right. You look older and will regenerate younger. Sure. Ever thought about selling that particular trick?"

He looks at her as if she's mad, which she finds a little insulting. After all, he's got enough of that for the both of them and it's entirely his fault she's taken on his habits. Er, will be his fault.

"I'll just be leaving," she says, and he's still looking at her, clearly thinking.

"Miss Tyler," he says formally, an almost grandfatherly tone to his voice. "Has anyone told you time travel is highly dangerous without an expert in the field present?"

"No, but you've shown me several times," she counters and he looks severely unimpressed at that. But his eyes twinkle, and oh, oh, she knows that. The Doctor's twinkle. It is him. It is...

"I'll see you later," she says softly, leaning forward and kissing him. He's too surprised to stop her, and the look on his face is the last thing she sees before pushing the button returning her.

Wrong time. But just the right confused look she had imagined still.

II

She doesn't have time to see if it's the right TARDIS this time, because the first thing she sees is that it's definitely not the right Doctor.

She's pretty sure hers never wore celery.

He would look very interesting just covered in salad leaves, though.

"What?" he says adorably, but not at her. He doesn't even notice her. No, his attention is on the console, his fingers working tirelessly. "You cannot tell me all of time and those few minutes cannot be done?"

He slams the console and she must make some sort of noise, because he looks right at her and his expression almost makes her want to cry.

"What? Who are you? How did you get here?"

"I'm Rose. I... Doesn't matter. What were you trying do?"

"Save Adric," he says flatly.

Adric. Another name she doesn't know.

"I'm sorry," she says carefully. "Was she-"

"He."

"-He special?"

"He was my companion," the Doctor says - she knows it must be the Doctor, because that petulance can't be mistaken - which seems to be answer enough for him.

"I'm sorry," she says again, and then, because she feels the pain radiating from him, she opens her arms.

His hug is almost crushing, but he doesn't cry, just breathes into her shoulder, breathes and breathes until he swallows, just once.

How much pain in him, she wonders. How many of these has he suffered? How much can anyone bear?

"I'm sorry," she says again, feeling his body fade around her as she lets herself be pulled back again.

Very wrong time, even with a hug, she decides, feels hot tears on her cheek as she appears back in her own world. Crying for him - but someone has to when he won't.

II

Very wrong TARDIS, she knows the moment she smells the smoke. It's burning and smelling sharply of ashes, metal and blood, which takes her about ten seconds to identify before she gags.

She almost trips over him. At least she thinks it's him, because she can't imagine who else it would be to stay in the TARDIS like this.

He's dying, she can tell. The blood is his, half-long hair streaked with it. One arm is badly burned, and something sharp is embedded in his side. His eyes are closed, and he only flinches when she puts her hands on his face.

"Did I do it?" he whispers. "Romana, did I do it?"

"I'm not..." she begins, but bites her lip. "Yes, you did it. You did. Just... Regenerate now."

He coughs; it sounds all the wrong sort of bad. "I didn't want to. Why did you make me do it? The whole planet... I'm the coward. Why did you make me do it?"

"I... I don't know."

"You're dead too," he says, and she remembers what he once told her. Last of his kind.

"Yes," she says. "Last of the Time Lords, you are."

"What good is that?"

"Better than none at all," she says sharply. "You can't die, you can't... One is better than none. You're much better than none. You're... I love you. You don't dare die."

He opens his eyes then, but she can tell he can't focus right.

"Do I know you?"

"You will," she promises. "You'll know me. You'll... You will love me."

It can't be quite called a smile, but what he gives is close enough.

"I think I might just," he says, which she guesses could count for admitting, even if he doesn't know her yet.

He dies; she pushes the button the moment she sees that he is regenerating.

He is wrong, of course. Life takes enough courage to make everyone brave.

II

Right TARDIS, is her first observation. Still painful to land on, but this time the sort of pain she remembers, having fallen over in this particular TARDIS many times. Right TARDIS, yes! Right...

"Rose? How did you get in here?" a northern-tilted voice says, and there's no mistaking that.

Wrong Doctor. Shit.

"Time-travel," she says brightly, pushing herself up to see a familiar sight. The leather jacket. The ears. The body language. The Doctor she got used to until he forced change on her again, mole and all.

"You just said no to coming with me," he remarks, and there's no mistaking a slight hurt to his tone.

Oh. That time.

"I didn't know it travels in time," she says brightly, trying a smile. He just looks at her, eyes like ice, but never freezing her. "You told me that. Will tell me that."

He nods, which she supposes means he agrees. He has to, or she'll just have a massive time paradox imploding the universe or something. He'll probably give her a lecture on that if she stays too long, which almost makes it tempting to stay.

Almost.

"I'll just go bye so you can tell me hello," she says, pausing for a second. "You know, I miss you. I like the new, and also miss the old. Does that make sense?"

"Yes," he simply says. "That's time."

When she smiles, he takes her hand and his smile still changes his face.

Okay, still wrong time. But she still got the hand-holding right.

"Be seeing you," she says, and pushes the button.

II

She manages to brace herself this time, landing less painfully. It's the right TARDIS again, and she almost applauds, but the console room is empty.

"Doctor?"

He could be out somewhere, of course, but there's still something that draws her to walk inwards. Rooms are never quite predictable in the TARDIS, but most seem to be what they were when she was there. It's familiar.

The woman she walks straight into isn't.

That definitely hurts.

Right, the Doctor is a dark-skinned woman now, clutching her nose and looking pained - no wonder, since Rose is feeling her own nose complain most strongly. Right. Rose supposes she could learn to live with that. She could even maybe...

"Who are you?" the woman says sharply.

"Rose...?"

"You're Rose...?"

Okay, the tone clearly reveals the name is familiar, but the reaction is all wrong to be the Doctor.

"Yeah, I'm Rose. You're...?"

"Martha."

"You know who I am."

"Yeah."

They regard each other for a moment, Rose feeling a twinge of jealousy for a moment. But it's just a moment. After all, she always had to share the Doctor with someone. It was just usually the Universe.

"You're back?" Martha asks, and her tone is flat. "He'll be happy. He talks about you now and then."

"Improvement," Rose remarks casually. "He never told me about anyone he'd travelled with. I had to meet one first."

"Not really improvement," Martha counters, then seems to exhale a little. "He fell in love with a human yesterday. One that wasn't me."

Silence. Rose closes her eyes, feeling strangely calm.

"He did that to me once too. I think. He does that. Two hearts, and all."

Something rather like understanding seems to pass between them, at least it feels that way to Rose.

"I didn't think I would like you," Martha comments after a moment. Implied that she might after all, Rose doesn't know.

"You don't have to. Just like him for me. I don't want to... This isn't the right time. Not yet. Look after him? Promise?"

"Promise."

It's not from the Doctor, but it is a promise still and Rose lets it count.

"Bye," she says, Martha's tentative smile the last thing she sees. She could have gotten used to the Doctor as a woman with a little adapting.

Definitely.

II

Empty TARDIS again, but this time she knows it's right. It has to be, because she's running out of power to make more attempts. It has to be, because right is just what you make of it anyway.

She finds him outside. He's standing on a beach, hands in his pockets, eyes on the horizon. Same Doctor she left. Almost a bit like she last saw him, in fact.

She leans against the TARDIS and watches him.

He's going to turn around, she envisions. He's going to turn around and she's going to run to him. He's going to stand still, not even reacting when she puts her hands in his pockets, joining his hands there. He's going to close her eyes when she kisses him. He's going to say something really stupid. She's going to laugh at him and kiss him again.

No.

She's messed up the reunion. But that's all right, the goodbye was a bit messed up too. Symmetry in that. But this would never happen as she imagined either way. It's not going to be perfect ever after. That was the fantasy. When all you have is memories you can polish them how you like. She did it with her father, making him in her mind how she wanted. He wasn't, but that was also all right in the end. He was still her father.

This is still the Doctor. It's not going to be perfect. (For one thing, he's probably going to be rather pissed when she tells him how many versions of himself he'll have to go back and erase the memory of to avoid history changing.)

Why would it have to be when it can be so much more interesting?

"Doctor?"

He turns around.

It's going to be nothing like she imagines it and she can't wait.

II

FIN