The stories that follow are a paired. The opposite story is called When You're Older and can be found on my Author page. Both stories follow Rose's chronology and will be updated simultaneously.
Ten: Because He Needed to Say It
Rose was gone and he hadn't even gotten to tell her the truth, and he honestly couldn't decide what hurt worse. He'd burned up a star to say goodbye to her, but he'd still run out of time. Useless habit in a Time Lord, but it was forever happening to him.
After he'd ditched the kind but infuriating Donna, he sank into a depression so deep even the TARDIS couldn't drag him out. She'd taken him to three planets he had always loved and four he had always hated, but he wouldn't even open the doors, just dematerialized as soon as he realized they'd actually landed somewhere. He changed his brown suit for blue - the brown would never do again, and blue was a perfectly appropriate color for a Time Lord in deep mourning. He stopped shaving, bathed irregularly, and sank ever deeper.
After about a month of this, the TARDIS had actually shifted the rooms around until he was in the shower, washed and fluff dried him like those wretched lifts on New Earth, which hurt to remember, then moved him to the console room. The TARDIS materialized and, before he could even get his feet under him, opened up and tilted the floor to drop him, unceremoniously, into the middle of a children's play park on Earth.
He demanded to be let back in and she ignored him. He tried his key, but the lock zapped his fingers. Figuring the ship was in a snit because of his mood, he sighed and walked up to the top of the hill to look at the park.
There were time traces scattered magnificently all around it. Some were perfectly normal, but there was that one set, so distinctive in amongst the ordinary patterns, the one set that blazed brighter than the sun, the only set he had ever seen on a human being that literally danced. He knew she was there, even before he spotted her dark blonde hair by the swings or her mother on a nearby bench with a man who looked friendly and sympathetic.
He cursed quietly and fluently and pulled out his TARDIS key, setting up a resonance pattern on it so he wouldn't be seen as long as he wore it. Another Time Lord might see through it, but he didn't have to worry about that anymore, did he?
He stalked off across the park and contemplated finding a bench to sit on until moss grew on him like some kind of forgotten statue. The TARDIS could just go be inconceivably rude to someone else.
When he did find that bench near the sandbox, he also found his grief quite overwhelming with Rose near enough to touch and still farther away than she had ever been. He sank under his despair and gave in to the urge that had been haunting him for weeks. He curled in on himself and wept.
When he felt the tiny hand in his own, he knew it was her even before his brain registered the implications of that fact. As soon as it had, though, he panicked.
She tried, in her tiny way, to make him feel better. That was Rose, her defining quality, the compassion she had for every little thing. She also laughed at him, which hurt so much because he wished with all his heart that the grown Rose was here to laugh with him.
When she apologized, he snapped out of it, finally, after what felt like an eon of grief. He couldn't leave Rose with a bad first impression of him, even if she would never remember it. As astounded as he was that she could see him, he knew every other pair of eyes, even the hawk-like ones on Jackie Tyler, would still miss him.
He sat with her and built her a sandcastle, the most magnificent she would ever see, just because he could and wanted to do, and she was so precious and helpful, even at her present, tiny little age. They talked, and he understood her very well, as well as he understood the adult Rose who he would never see again.
She told him a story about a cat who always came back, and it made him smile sadly, because even though she didn't know it, she was telling him her own story in a lot of ways. What she didn't know now and wouldn't even realize until the last possible minute later, was that the story had to end some time. "They lived happily ever after" didn't work, sadly.
He tried to send her back to her mum before he did something stupid in exchange for her baby brilliance. Unfortunately, his Rose had always been trouble-friendly, and found the ground far too hard on her knee when she took a fall over the edge of the sandbox. Her pitiful cry was enough to stop his hearts, and he reached out and snatched her up before he could even think better of it.
He carried her back to the bench, holding her close, protecting his little pink and yellow human from her pain, back before she was his, back before he could no longer protect her. Years from now, he would leave her sobbing on a sandy beach, unable to reach her without destroying everything. But before it came down to that, there was still time and he could still hold her hand a little while longer.
He checked and repaired her injuries with the medical supplies he always kept because, even as an adult, accidents accompanied her as long as she accompanied him. When she ordered him to kiss it better, his hearts broke for her. Only once in his life had he ever managed to do that successfully, and it had almost cost him her love as his body changed before her wide and frightened eyes.
Time had obligingly frozen for them, so he held onto her just a little longer. She was so little and she'd never remember, but maybe... just maybe...
"Rose Tyler, I love you." At long last, he finished his sentence, the one that never made it to that parallel beach with her. "I love you so much."
When she told him she loved him too, he was shaken to the very soul. She let him hold onto her, cuddle her close and sob painfully and bitterly into her hair. Then he spoke, one last time, the very last words he would ever speak to her. "Try to remember, some day when it's important, that I love you forever."
He sent her on her way, then, and it was all he could do to watch her walk away. He found, in fact, that he couldn't do it, and quickly retuned the TARDIS key so she would lose him as he bolted.
In Rose's formative mind was planted the knowledge that the Doctor loved her. It was all he could do, but as he made his way in to the slightly less sulky TARDIS, he found that it was as close to enough as he was going to get. These last precious moments, even with a miniature Rose in his arms, had been a nexus toward his salvation.
Maybe she would forget all about it. Maybe she was standing by the winter cold Norwegian sea wondering if he had ever felt anything for her.
Then again, maybe, just maybe, she was looking up at the stars right now and remembering the words whispered to her a short lifetime ago by a man she could only half remember. Maybe she was realizing, only now, where those words had come from, what they had really meant. Maybe the world was turning under her feet and she was feeling it, really feeling it, and knowing at last that every single time he had said the word "run", he really meant "I love you."