Title: Gone with the Morning

Author: Wish Wielder

Fandom: Doctor Who

Pairing / Character Focus: (Tenth) Doctor, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness, Jackie Tyler, Mickey Smith, a few Torchwood cameos; Doctor x Rose

Challenge: Songs in Time Spring Hopes Eternal Ficathon

Theme / Prompt: (Any S1 thru S4+) Somehow the Doctor (or Rose) figures out how to spend a whole day with the other. But it's just this one day, every year, then they have to go back to their "everyday" lives. Flashback from either POV and could be tied to a reunion. ("And I'll try to sleep / To keep you in my dreams / 'Til I can bring you home with me / I'll try to sleep / And when I do I'll keep you in my dreams / I knew it from the start / So my arms are open wide / Your head is on my stomach / And we're trying so hard not to fall asleep / So here we are /

On this 18th floor balcony, yeah" ("18th Floor Balcony" by Blue October))

Word Count: 11,176

Rating: M / PG-16

Summary: They're not questioning the impossible anymore, but they are finding that maybe it's not quite enough.

Notes: Post-S3/4, alternating from That Spoiler (a tad AU). Two-parter; slight spoilers for the end of Partners in Crime in the second part. Major thanks to Aku for putting up with me through this – love ya' to bits, darlin'!

Disclaimer: "Doctor Who" and all respective properties are © the BBC. Megan D. (Wish Wielder) does not, has never, nor will ever own "Doctor Who".

Gone with the Morning

Part I: Musings of the 18th Floor Balcony

Outside, he could hear the world moving on. Time surged forward, swirling around them differently but still just as lethal as…he closed his eyes against the klaxon and street shouts, blocking them out as he focused on the woman in his arms. He smiled for the briefest moment, calmed by the simple fact that he was there with her, but another shout from the night outside the windows and his reassurance vanished like morning smoke. He tightened his grip on her, holding her closer as he willed time to slow. It didn't work as well over here, in a universe he couldn't call home (even if it was where his home was). His eyes opened as she shifted, a worried groan slipping from her as her hand clutched at his bare chest.

"Doctor?" she whispered cautiously, and he shushed her. Her warm brown eyes slipped open just barely, and his breath hitched at the look in them.

"I'm still here," he said, voice barely audible above the city life filtering from the open balcony doors. "Go back to sleep, Rose."

"Can't," she mumbled, burrowing closer to him. "If I do…you'll go away again. Y'always do."

"No, I won't," he said. He kissed her forehead, and she smiled despite the gnawing in her gut. "We still have time, Rose. We still have time."

He felt her slip back into sleep, and his eyes closed again as he pulled her even closer. His face burrowed in the crook of her neck, and he breathed her in. They still had time, but not much. Even as a Time Lord he couldn't change that fact, or that by the time she woke again he would be gone. Not by choice, but all the same he'd vanish from her life for another year, until the walls were thin enough that he'd be pulled through again.

The first time, he hadn't really realized what was happening. She hadn't, either (well, at first).

He frowned at the slight jerking feeling, like a hook was attached to his navel and pulling him…somewhere. He'd lived long enough to know better than to brush it off as nothing, but he'd also lived long enough to not really care anymore. Long enough that it was hard to really care about anything anymore, even the doctor and redhead that had just bid him adieu the week before (he didn't miss the noise; he really didn't…not too much, at least).

It was the one constant in the universe, he'd learned: with people, there was always a goodbye. Even if neither of you asked for, or even wanted, one.

He shook his head, closing his eyes just a moment – focused enough on clearing his head that he didn't notice the tugging disappear, or the feeling of a shift in the universe. He reached back up to grab some wires from underneath the console only to have his hands bang against…wood? His eyes snapped open, and he gawked at the underside of…well, it looked like a coffee table.

"Knew it was one of those days. You can't have a Slitheen explode all over you and not have one of those days."

His hearts stopped. For the longest moment, his hearts actually stopped. Shaking hands pushed him from under the table, and then he was sitting in what he guessed was her living room. There she was, the one he was never supposed to be able to see again, standing in the entryway to a…flat? What was she doing in a flat? Nice flat, though – her flat. Back on the…

And as he recognized the interior of the flat back on the Powell Estates, albeit different décor, he realized that yes, it was one of those days. Nothing more than a dream, no matter how realistic it seemed, brought on from exhaustion of a bad day and too much repair work. He was probably still under the console, probably knocked out by a random electrocution or after bumping his head or…

She looked good, though – for a figment of his imagination. A navy leather jacket over a dark pink shirt, black jeans, and pink Converse hi-tops, just like his. Her hair was a little longer, not much past her shoulders but still not as short as it had been or as long as it once was. Not as much makeup, and her roots weren't as visible. He wondered at that, why his mind would change such little details he had always loved before.

"How'd you get here this time, then? Or is it that the universe needs saving and you don't have anyone else to ask, universal collapse be damned?" she asked, and he frowned as he pushed himself up off the floor. He could almost hear the unasked question in his dream hers mind: 'Or did you just miss me enough to not care?' Why had he been under her coffee table, anyway? Seemed like a silly place to show up. "And why are you under my table?"

"I…" he started, but then stopped. It was a dream, anyway – why should he justify his actions to someone who wasn't real? Even if she looked like someone who was…

"…it's one of those then, is it?" she asked as he pulled away from her, and he wondered when he had crossed the room to kiss her in the first place.

"One of those?" he asked, and she smiled as she looked up at him, bumping her hip into his. Ah. One of those. Maybe it was.

"You look older than I remember – thought you weren't supposed to age?" she asked, and he laughed slightly.

"Do you always have to point out how I'm not taking care of myself?" he asked, brushing a piece of hair out of her face. "I miss your roots."

"Do you always have to point out how much you dislike what I've done to my hair?" she asked, and he kissed her again when he saw that bit of tongue poke out the side of her mouth. In dreams like this, he didn't have to tell himself he didn't miss that tongue, or that mouth; that he didn't hate the fact he never got to do this properly in the first place.

"First time you've dyed it properly in one of these," he said, grinning slightly at her. Her eyes widened, and she reached up to put a hand on his face.

"But…you've never said that before," she said. "I'm the one dreaming."

"Not the first time you've said that," he said, kissing her again. He knew he shouldn't; she was just a dream, and he shouldn't indulge in what couldn't be. But even knowing that, it didn't keep her from feeling warm and real beneath his hands, or stop the stirring deep inside at the little ways she moaned when he brought his lips to a certain spot on her neck. It also didn't keep him from wondering how she would react if it was really her he was kissing. "I think I like thinking you dream about me, too. Keeps me from feeling as mad."

"You've always been mad," she said, and he laughed at that. Maybe he had been, and maybe he still was. She always made him feel a little mad. "Oh, God…you need to stop."

"Don't want to," he said, bringing up a hand to pull down the zip on her jacket. She put her hands on his chest, and he pulled away as she pushed him slightly.

"How are you here?" she asked, and he frowned as he ran a thumb under her eye.

"I'm not," he said. "Not really. I can't be, can I? Universes collapsing, impossible, and all that."

"You always did say that word too much," she said. He laughed and went back to kissing her neck, and she groaned as she arched against him. "Right, then – talking can wait. God, I missed you. It's been hell over here."

"You're supposed to say you're living the life fantastic," he mumbled as he slipped her jacket off her shoulders. She laughed then, and he wasn't sure how much he liked that.

"Most days, but it's hard without you here. Boring," she said. "Defending the Earth's not the same without you. Better with two – you – and all that."

He shouldn't have been as thrilled by the little mewling sound she made as he was, but he loved the way she nudged him back around the table and onto the sofa. He fell back when his knees bumped into the furniture, and she climbed onto his lap to give him a thorough snogging. All the more proof it couldn't be real, his mind told him; she would never let him jump her like this, not after so much time had passed. Not even before, and she had loved him th-oh. Oh, oh.

"You little minx," he hissed as she grinned at him. She did it again, and she leaned down to his ear as he bit back a groan.

"You love me for it," she whispered, and he squeezed where his hands held her hips as he caught her lips again.

"I'm sorry I ran out of time," he said, just as he said every other time he found himself in a dream with her. He thought that maybe if he told his dream Rose enough it would someday make up for the fact that he had never told his real Rose. "But I do. Rassilon, I love you so much."

"We should stop," she said when his fingers hooked under the hem of her shirt. He looked up at her, smiling slightly. He couldn't fully, not when he knew she wasn't…

"You don't want to," he said. She looked away, and he took her hand, folding their fingers together and kissing the back. She squeezed slightly, and a part of his mind told him he couldn't imagine how perfect it felt. "I don't want to. I'm sorry I never did this before. It would've been nice to…I was so stupid back then."

"I bet you still are, Mr. Genius," she said with a grin. He looked at her, laughing slightly.

"Watch the cheek," he said.

"Always," she replied, leaning back down to kiss his jaw while she worked on his many buttons. As he gave up reminding himself she wasn't really his Rose, he heard himself agree that yes, they would talk – later. He knew he'd wake up before he could give himself that false hope; he always did.

He hadn't admitted to himself it was real until he had woken up the next morning to Martha's screams and Jack's wolf-whistles.

"Woah, Doc – do you always sleep naked under the console when there's no one else on board?" Jack had asked, and he had received a very lovely bump when he had jumped up and crashed his head into the underside of the console. There had been Martha and Jack, standing in front of the open doors (where he could see Jack's lackeys gawking at him, or maybe just the TARDIS, from the interior of the Hub – which had been strange, as he had been coasting in the vortex). Martha had quickly excused herself, and Jack had closed the doors before asking him what he had done to his clothes.

Remembering his dream, he had leapt up to check one of the monitors. His hearts had nearly stopped at the readings.

"Well?" Jack asked, and he gulped as he looked up from the screen, an impossible hope niggling into the heart he had long since decided resided across the Void.

"I…I think, and I know how mad this sounds, but…at Rose's flat," he said. Jack quirked an eyebrow at him.

"You went back to the Powell Estates and stripped?" he asked, and with a roll of his eyes he waved him off.

"No, no, no! Not…well, yes, but not…Jack, I think…I think I crossed the Void in my sleep," he said.

"And lost your clothes in the process?" Jack asked, and he decided flushing was something better done with clothes to cover it up – especially when the blush went straight to your toes. "Oh my God. Oh my God. Christ, Doc, you didn't!"

"I don't know! I…Rassilon, it was really her…and she…oh, bollocks!" he cried, slamming his head against the monitor.

"Woah, Doc – stop that!" Jack said, running over and grabbing his shoulders. He looked over at him, a nauseous, glorious, stabbing feeling wrenching his gut. She had felt – looked – real because she was real. And he had thought she was a dream, and she had been acting like she thought it wasn't, and…

"She's going to wake up, Jack," he said, his brows knotting together in a horrified look. "She's going to wake up, and I'm not going to be there, and…she's going to think I left her. Again."

"What happened?" Jack asked, frowning at him, and he looked back to the monitor.

"I'm not sure," he said. He tapped the screen, pointing to something he knew Jack would never be able to read. "That right there marks Voidal disturbances."

"Voidal dis…?" Jack started, and he nodded. "You monitor the Void? Like how we monitor the Rift?"

"Yes," he said. "Ever since…I knew it was impossible, but…I like hope, Jack. Too much to fully give it up. I thought that maybe the walls would wear thin – thin enough that I could poke through and bring her back. That or the Daleks and Cybermen were coming through again, and even then I'd need to know to stop them. But…it's fluctuating, Jack. And right here, this gap of time here – twenty-four hours exactly – they were…they were thin enough."

"Thin enough for what?" Jack asked, and he rolled his eyes.

"Do you have to be so thick?!" he snapped, and immediately he regretted it. He sighed and looked down, rubbing his forehead. The hand that was still on his shoulder gave a gentle squeeze, and he looked back to his old friend. "I'm sorry."

"I'm just trying to help," Jack said, and he smiled weakly.

"I know. I was able to slip through, Jack," he said. He looked back to the monitor. "I don't know how. There was this tugging, but I just brushed it off like…something pulled me through, Jack. And it brought me right under Rose's table. And we…well, obviously."

Jack grinned, despite the weight of the situation. He raised a brow at him, and he – damn him – laughed.

"Danced?" he asked, and he sighed before nodding. His grin turned wicked. "Hey, you've been wanting to for ages – don't look so bummed about it!"

"Well how am I supposed to look, Harkness?!" he snapped, rounding on him. His fists clenched at his sides, his body thrumming with a suppressed frustration he just couldn't give voice to. "I was there, with her, and I thought it was a sodding dream! And she didn't, and she's going to wake up thinking I just left because it was real, and I was too stupid to believe it! And I don't even know how I got there, or how I could get back, because those bloody walls are sealed again and…and…"

"Doctor…" Jack sighed as he sank to the floor, gasping and looking off into empty space. Space where she should've been. Space where she had been, and now wasn't – again.

"I've lost her, Jack," he said. "All over again, I've lost her."

"You could say that," Jack said, and he looked up at him, "or you could stop being pathetic, go throw some clothes on, and figure out how you got over there in the first place. You were there once – you can get there again. You've only lost her if you want to lose her, and you and I both know you don't. Now stop your pity-party and do something about it."

It had taken a year. A whole year, but not by choice. It had taken him a week to figure out what he hadn't been able to in years, and when he finally had his answer he hadn't been able to do a damned thing about it. He had parked in the Hub (he had moved the TARDIS out of the way, of course – well, after Owen had had a few choice words with him over it), and Jack had helped him as best he could. What it came down to was…well, he still wasn't sure. Some trick of time and vortex energy and he was fairly sure Bad Wolf or the TARDIS or both led to the walls wearing thin enough to cross once every three hundred and sixty-five Earth days, and even then only for twenty-four Earth hours.

It wasn't what he had hoped, not by a long shot, but it would have to be enough. There was some saying about a gift horse's mouth that applied to their situation; he was fairly sure of it.

Even then, he hadn't been sure if he was right. He couldn't figure out why it was only starting then, and going from that he hadn't known if it would even repeat. So he went on as best he could, the only difference being that he had refused to let anyone else tag along. He knew it wasn't the best of ideas – something Jack had argued with him over more than he cared to remember – but he couldn't help it. If Rose was…if he was going to…

What it had come down to, for him, was this: either he was going to be popping out once a year to see Rose (which would be bad, if it resulted in abandoning a companion at a bad time), Rose would be coming back (in which case he didn't really want someone else on board), or…nothing would happen. He would know within the year, and he could make his decision from there.

The second time it had happened, she had been cooking.

He stood in the console room, hands shoved into the pockets of his blue suit as he looked up at the vaulted ceiling expectantly. He was parked in the Hub – for safety measures, in case he was right (Rassilon, please let him be right) and would be popping over to Pete's World. Jack was leaning against the railing by the ramp, arms folded across his chest and watching him fidget with focused eyes. The good captain was worried he was wrong, just as he was, but he was hiding it. Sometimes the man really was too good to him, rough patches and all.

"Come on," he whispered. "Come on, come on, come on come on come on COME ON!"

"Doc, calm down!" Jack called, and he looked at him as he pushed a frustrated breath past his lips. "You said that last time you didn't get pulled through until the window was a few hours from closing. It's only just opening now – be patient."

He nearly laughed at that; there was no such thing as patient with him anymore, not when it came to Rose Tyler. He'd spent too long after that blasted battle being patient. He couldn't waste any more time on that particular virtue now.

An hour past without anything happening, not even the slightest niggle. Another hour marched by, and Gwen brought in some charts for Jack to go through. "Might as well be doing something while you stand around in here," she had said, but she gave him a sympathetic look all the same. A look at the ring glistening on her finger and he smiled at her, a smile of comradery. She knew what it was like to be apart from the one you loved, too – even when that one was standing right next to her instead of a universe away.

By the next hour he was starting to lose that hope he had been clinging to so desperately the past year. By the fifth, he was sitting on the jump seat with his feet propped on the console, counting off happy primes to keep his mind from…

"It's not going to work," he said, his voice crumpling in defeat. "I was given that one chance to see her, to make things right, and I botched it up."

"If by 'make things right' you mean finally tell her you love her, I think she got the message," Jack said, looking up from another chart. He snorted derisively.

"Oh, yes – 'wham, bam, thank you, ma'am' is exactly the same as 'I love you'," he said, and he groaned as he let his feet droop from the console, rocking forward as he placed his head in his hands. "It's not fair – it's not bloody fair! The universe can't just give her back and then take her away again!"

He was so busy yelling he missed the jerking, or Jack's shout as reality slipped left. But when he looked up his eyes snapped open as he found himself back in her flat, sitting on that sofa they had…he laughed and jumped up, pumping his fist in the air as he twirled with a whoop.

"It worked!" he laughed, bouncing again as he looked around. "I was right! Ha ha! It worked!"

"Who the bloody hell are you?"

He hadn't, however, been expecting the gruff, decidedly male voice barking that particular question at him. He whirled around, his eyes popping wide again at the man leaning on the counter in the passway to the kitchen. The very familiar man. The…bloody hell, what was Owen Harper doing in Rose's flat?

"Erm…sorry, right…erm, does Rose Tyler live here, by any chance?" he asked, and the alternate Owen arched a brow at him.

"Yeah," he said, and his relief was short-lived as his initial question came back to mind: what was Owen Harper doing in Rose's flat?

"Oh," was all he could say. He stood there, rubbing the back of his neck as his other hand fisted in his pocket. Brilliant.

"Who are you?" Owen asked again, and he frowned at him.

"I'm the Doctor," he said. His frown deepened. "Is…is Rose here?"

"In here, Doctor," he heard her call from the kitchen, and despite the awkwardness of AlternaOwen looking at him like he was the plague his hearts soared at her voice. Without giving Owen another thought he leapt over the sofa and raced into the kitchen, barely thinking to catch himself on the doorway as he stumbled to a halt. There she was, by the stove with her arms folded over her chest and looking murderous and…was she cooking?

Oh, hell.

"…those aren't grits, are they?" he gulped, backing up slightly. Her lips twitched as a brow rose, and he could tell – despite her obvious ire – she wanted to laugh.

"What the hell are grits?" Owen asked, whirling around on the stool he was seated at to give him another spiteful look.

"They don't have grits here," she said, lips twitching again, "but even if they did I doubt I'd make 'em. Never cared for grits."

"Oh, good for me, then," he said. Her gaze darkened.

"But I could always make an exception, yeah?" she asked. She turned back to the stove and picked up a spoon, stirring whatever it was she was cooking in the pot. "Why are you here?"

Her voice was like acid, so much colder than the last time he had come. Mocking disbelief washing away into so much love then, but now…

"To apologize," he said. He watched her grip tighten on the spoon, and he knew if he could see her face it would be mirroring the irritation.

"You do that a lot," she said. "Sorry doesn't mean much from you."

He bit back the shout he wanted to spit at her; he deserved it, after all. Well, ok, not really, but…oh, maybe he did. He wasn't sure anymore. All he knew was that they only had…nineteen hours left, roughly, and he wanted her to stop being mad at him. They shouldn't be spending those hours yelling at each other.

"Rose, you have to listen to me, all right? About last time, I'm not sorry. Well, I am, but not for what you probably think. I'm sorry I had to leave. I'm really sorry I had to leave before getting dressed – that would've saved a rather embarrassing moment, believe me," he said, frowning as he thought back to that uncomfortable morning.

"If you came back for your suit, I burned it," she said. He paused, eyes going wide.

"You what?" he asked. "But…but…that was my favorite tie!"

"Not really," she said, looking over her shoulder at him just slightly. He saw the barest hint of a smile in her eyes, and he relaxed slightly. "But it would serve you right if I did – and I'd definitely burn that one. Honestly, blue?" She paused, and he let her jab go. He wouldn't spend this time fighting her. He wouldn't. "Why did you leave?"

"Why's Owen Harper in your…no, right – your question first," he said, nodding. He ignored the spluttering Owen fell into at the sound of his name and nodded at Rose. "There's something happening, Rose, and I don't know what. But whatever it is, I'm not gonna question it. It's big, and it's powerful, and it's making a way back to you."

"What?" she asked, spinning around and dropping the spoon to the floor. He ignored the clatter and nodded.

"Somehow the walls between universes are wearing thin," he said, "but only for a day. One day, once a year. And it happened for the first time last year, and I wasn't even sure it was going to work again. Blimey, Rose, I didn't even know it had happened the first time until I woke up naked under the console!"

"…you thought it wasn't real," she said, frowning. He nodded.

"A dream, at first. Then I woke up and realized it wasn't," he said. "I'm sorry."

"You have dreams about me often, then?" she asked, smiling slightly. He grinned.

"More than you'd guess," he told her.

"Wait, so you're the ex?"

They both looked at Owen then, and judging from Rose's expression he had a feeling she had forgotten the man was there. She looked back to him for a moment, as if she wasn't sure what she should tell the man. He gave her a grin and looked back at Owen.

"Well, I wouldn't really call me an ex," he said. Owen's eyes narrowed on him, and he grinned.

"Then what would you call yourself?" he asked, and Rose cut in.

"He's…he's the Doctor, Owen," she said, as if that explained everything. Maybe it did.

"Never mentioned him before," Owen said. Rose sighed and looked down.

"Owen's a doctor at the forensics department in Torchwood," she said. "We work together a lot, and…God, I was so mad at you. He's been after me for ages to go on a date with him – it figures the day I finally decide to say yes you show up again. Funny how you always know when there's some competition that needs chasing off."

"Well, I've been told I've a bit of a jealous streak," he said, and she laughed.

"A bit?" she asked, and he smiled as he opened his arms to her.

"C'mere," he said, and she smiled as she ran the few steps to him, falling into his arms like…well, there was no 'like'. She always had belonged there. He held her tight, burying his head in her hair and breathing her in. "I still can't believe I'm actually here. I can't believe I was here before and I…"

"Don't you dare apologize for that, Doctor," she said, squeezing him tight. "We both wanted it, even if you thought I was a dream."

"You are a dream, Rose," he said, pushing her back slightly and smiling at her. She rolled her eyes at him, nudging his shoulder.

"Mr. Flattery, you are," she said. They jumped as Owen gave a bark of laughter.

"Oh, come on, Rose! You're gonna buy into that? Ok, so he's your ex, but…he's an alien! And don't tell me he's not, not from what he's been saying and how he appeared in your living room like that!" the medic said, glaring at him. "And you told me your last boyfriend broke your heart – and with that half-assed apology you're just gonna go back with him?"

"Oy!" he snapped, indignant, but he paused as Rose put a hand on his shoulder.

"Yeah, Owen, I am," she said. She smiled at him, that apologetic smile she gave whenever she felt awful about whatever it was she was about to do. "'Cause he's the Doctor, Owen. I went off with him when I was nineteen years old. Gave up my mum, my boyfriend, my…well, not my job, 'cause he blew it up, but my life. For him, and I never looked back."

She looked up at him, smiling widely and laughing a bit. He grinned back at her, leaning close enough that their noses bumped.

"I'm not nineteen anymore, but I'd still leave it all behind for one chance with him," she said. She looked down, biting her lip before looking back at him with a sheepish smile. "My Doctor and all that, right?"

"Oh yes," he said, and he kissed her then, for the first time in a year. Owen gave out an "Oy!" as he jumped up from the stool, and Rose pulled away to look at him.

"You can't just…blow me off like this!" he said. She sighed and disentangled herself form his arms, and he made a small noise of protest at it. She gave him a look, and he frowned as she went over to Owen. She gave him a quick hug – a hug that should have been his, mind, as they still were on the lesser side of nineteen hours – and patted his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Owen, but…you've gotta understand. My choice will always be the Doctor. It always has been," she said. Owen frowned at her.

"But you heard him – you only get one day a year with him. You'd really rather have one day with him instead of every day with me? Or any bloke?"

"Yeah," she said, looking back at him to smile. "One day a year's better than no day. He's worth it, Owen. You don't know him, so you –"

"Actually, he does know me," he said, and they both looked at him with curious expressions. He grinned. "I know the him from our universe. Works with Jack – oh, he says hello, by the way – and I can tell you right now, even if he did know me he wouldn't like me much. Then again, I don't really like him, either, so all's fair, I suppose!"

He grinned at them, and Owen snorted. He gave Rose a look that said she was clearly mad and moved past them both, out into the living room to grab his coat. They heard the door slam a moment later, and he looked back to her with that same smile to find…she wasn't smiling anymore.

"He works with Jack?" she asked. "Our Jack?"

Oh. Right. She hadn't been there to know he had run into Jack again, and really, as far as she knew he was dead. And they had been doing so well, too…

"Yes," he said. "Our Jack. He took over the Cardiff branch of Torchwood after Canary Wharf, rebuilt it to do the right thing. He's got a team and everything. They're…well, really they're a bunch of incompetent idiots, but they get the job done. He helped me save the world a few years back, and…well, we keep in touch. I have to bail them out occasionally, and he does the same for me – why are you looking at me like that?"

"You said he had a future to rebuild," she said, her eyes narrowing. "We left him on that game station because you said he had things to do in the future! And he was in Cardiff the whole time?!"

"Well, no – he did rebuild that future, yes," he said, reaching up to scratch his neck. "But then he used his vortex manipulator to hop back to when he could run in with an us that would correlate with his timeline. Missed the mark by about 200 years, and after his hopper burnt out he – what now?"

"Two hundred years?" she asked, her face paling. "Oh my God. Doctor, what…how…what happened to him?"

'You. You and the TARDIS and that whole Bad Wolf mess you killed me with.' She deserved to know; he should tell her. But…she had never really remembered everything that happened that day, and…he didn't want to. He didn't want to dump it all on her, especially not like this. If he had the time to stay and help her through it it would be different, but…not like this. He couldn't tell her like this.

"Well, you know –" he started, shrugging slightly, and he stopped at the look in her eyes.

"Don't lie to me, Doctor," she said. "I'm not…I'm not the same Rose that first landed here."

"Rose…" he sighed, and she shook her head.

"I remember things sometimes, things I really wish I didn't. And I don't know if they're real or just these mad dreams I get from too much excitement at Torchwood, but…I don't know," she said, looking away. "I gave you that face, didn't I? And…Jack can't die, can he? And I'm the one who made him like that."

Ok, maybe he wasn't giving her enough credit, after all. He walked over to her and pulled her close, hugging her so tightly he was sure she'd have trouble breathing. But she held him just as close, and he felt her shake as unsteady sobs were ripped from her. This wasn't how he had wanted to spend their day, but…

"I think it's you, too, who's doing this," he said after a long while had passed. She had calmed in his arms, and now he was just standing there, holding her. "Rose, I can't explain what's happening to the walls. I've spent the past year trying to, or at least trying to figure out what's pulling me here, but…there's nothing. There's no way to reason it out. But…there are markers, right? Little markers, here and there, soaked in vortex energy and…it's the same as when you became Bad Wolf. I think you're doing it, Rose, even if you don't realize it. And I think you've been doing it ever since you got here, little bits at a time, and it's only strong enough to bring me here now."

"But…you took it away from me," she said, looking up at him. "That's what made you regenerate, isn't it? You took the energy from me, and –"

That was when the smoke alarm went off – around the same time Rose had remembered she had been cooking when he had popped up. Her dinner had been ruined, and they had shared a laugh over how her cooking was as bad as Jackie's (it wasn't really; he knew that from before) as they cleaned up. She had opted for pizza instead, and they spent the time waiting for it and the time after it arrived just…talking. He had had so much to explain, with Jack and Bad Wolf and everything from before, and she had had so much to tell him about Torchwood and how she was carrying on in this alternate world.

She had told him how she had moved out of Pete's mansion a few months after their goodbye. It wasn't her, she had said – it was big, but it wasn't the same as the TARDIS. So she found a flat on the Powell Estates, not quite the one she had grown up in but near enough. There were slight differences in the architecture – things like a balcony in her bedroom and other minor differences – but it was still basically the same. He had told her about Martha and Donna, the Master and the Year that Never Was, the Face of Boe passing – they spent the night laughing and crying, catching up and rediscovering each other and just being together.

She had called out the next day, calling for a personal day that was automatically granted because she was the Director's daughter and apparently one of their best agents. She downed a good two pots of coffee, trying everything to stay awake and with him. But by the time their sixteenth hour came around she had been exhausted.

"Go to sleep, Rose," he said, and she shook her head as she curled closer to him on the sofa.

"I can't," she said. "How much time do we have left?"

"'Bout three hours," he said, and she nodded.

"I can do three hours…easy," she said, but by the yawn that interrupted her sentence he wasn't convinced. She saw the look he gave her, and she frowned. "It's not fair. You're all Time Lord and superior physiology and 'I don't need sleep', and I'm –"

"Human," he said, and she gave his shoulder a playful slap at that. "You need to sleep, Rose."

"S'like you said, Doctor. I only get this one day with you – I don't wanna spend it…spend it…sleeping," she said, her sentence again interrupted by a yawn. He kissed her forehead and sighed, resting his head against hers. "It's not fair."

"It's not, but right now it's all we have," he said. "And –"

He stopped, gritting his teeth against the niggling in his gut. Not now. Please, not now.

"Doctor?" she asked, looking up at him. He opened his eyes and smiled at her, all the while cursing the multiverse for not letting them have those last three hours.

"Time to go," he said, and she frowned at him.

"See you next year, then?" she asked, and he laughed slightly as he nodded. He grit his teeth again, fighting against the force pulling him back.

"Next year," he said, and he leaned down to give her one last kiss. "I love you, Rose Tyler."

"Quite right, too, Doctor," she said, and she kissed him again. When he opened his eyes, he was back in the TARDIS.

He had walked out of his ship to find Jack waiting for him outside the doors. The captain had made a comment about how at least he had his clothes with him this time, but the humor had left his voice when he asked how she was. They had spent the rest of the day talking about her and what was happening and by the next day he was gone, back to another year of travelling alone.

The third time, she had questioned their newfound forever.

They sat on the balcony of her eighteenth-floor flat, curled up against the wall and watching the sinking sun. She was pressed against his chest, and there was an old blanket that he held tight around them to block the chill. She sighed and leaned back into him, her head fitting perfectly in the place between his neck and shoulder, like it had been made just for her. A part of him thought it had been.

"I hate that I can only see you today," she said, and he didn't answer her. "I want to go home with you, but…if this is all we can have, then I'm ok with it, yeah?"

"It may not be forever, Rose," he said, giving her a reassuring squeeze. "It took whatever's doing this three years before it built up enough power to get the walls thin enough to pull me through. Just a few more years and they may be thin enough to let me come through properly, with the TARDIS and everything. I've been monitoring them, you know, just in case they do. Then I can take you home, and we'll go on about our forever just like we always planned."

"But…you don't know how many years it'll take," she said, her voice dropping so low he almost didn't hear her. Or maybe he just didn't want to, just like he didn't want to hear her next question. "What happens if it takes too long, Doctor? What happens when it takes years and years and I'm here, too old to come with you? What if I die before it's strong enough?"

He should have told her something comforting. Something like how she was talking rubbish, or that it would only be another year or so, or that – if he's right, and it's the TARDIS and Bad Wolf doing this – she might not die as soon as she thought ("You did it to Jack – why not yourself?"). There were a million and one things he could tell her to make her feel better, and they were all on the tip of his tongue.

But he didn't answer, instead turning her face slightly to kiss her. He was rough and desperate, and he knew he might have worried her with his severity. But he was willing away her questions, kissing her and loving her with an intensity a billion lifetimes brighter than that sun he had burned up to say goodbye. It was his declaration, his outcry to a multiverse that always seemed to want them apart, that she was his and it wouldn't be taking her again. It would give them their forever, because damn it it owed him, and he deserved this – they deserved this.

They had fallen asleep curled together in that blanket on the balcony, and he had held her tight and watched her sleep as the sun started rising in the sky. He had watched until it glinted off the windows of the buildings, comparing the minor differences with the Earth back in their universe, before he had scooped her up and carried her back inside. He had laid her on her bed, tucking her in before he went out to gather their clothes. He had dressed in silence, and then had settled on the bed next to her. Again he had watched her sleep, still willing away her questions even as he felt the jerking pulling him away. But when he was back, lying on the floor of the console room and staring up at the still rotor, he couldn't keep her terrified voice from his mind.

"What if I die before it's strong enough?"

The next time, he had learned she hadn't told Jackie about his yearly visits – and earned the slap mark to prove it.

He was contemplating what absolutely brilliant thing he could say to announce his presence when he slipped left, giving a quick grin to Jack and opening his mouth to say that something brilliant…before he snapped it shut at the shouting that quickly filled his ears. Familiar shouting – shouting like…

Oh, Rassilon, no.

"And you never even told us, Rose! We're your bloody parents – we deserve to know you –" Jackie Tyler shouted from the bedroom, and he winced as he heard something heavy thud and Rose's furious voice snap back at her.

"Don't you think I know that, Mum?! I would have told you if I knew, but I obviously didn't! S'not like I've ever been shot there before, is it?" she snapped, and a lead weight dropped in his stomach. A lead weight mixed with a twinge of hope, expelling the quiet fears he'd been dreading over ever since last year.

"Well how am I supposed to know?! You're so secretive these days, all your special projects and late nights, and you're pulling Mickey in on it, too, but you won't even tell him what it's about! And if you have you won't let him tell us, and your dad's worried, Rose! And so am I!" Jackie said, and he stopped his trek down the hall as he heard another slam. "And what happens when we're gone, sweetheart? That bloody alien git isn't coming back for you, and you'll be here all alone, and –"

"Stop it!" Rose screamed, and he winced as something glass shattered somewhere in the room. "Just stop it, will you?! You don't know what you're talking about, Mum! And I don't know what I'll do, but I'll manage, yeah? I always have before!"

"Rose, sweetheart, listen to yourself! It's not gonna be as easy as all that – normal people die like they're supposed to! A hundred years go by and you're still alive, and what's gonna happen? They'll cut you up for experiments and such, and – what's the look for, then?" the shrieking voice stopped, Rose cutting across once more.

"Mum, I know you're worried, and I promise we'll talk about this later, but I'm expecting someone, yeah? And he's gonna be here any time now, and I'd really like you to not be here when he arrives," Rose said, and he considered slipping into the room at his side when he saw her appear by the partially-closed door and grab the handle.

"He? He? What's this about a 'he', then? You been dating someone and not telling us, Rose?" Jackie asked, and he grinned as he saw her appear before Rose. Her and her considerably pregnant stomach, from the looks of things.

"What if I am?" Rose asked, her voice defiant, and Jackie snorted.

"Well, s'not like you really should, is it? You can't die, and how fair is it to get involved with someone – oh my God!" Jackie screamed, her eyes landing on him, and he grinned as he waved. 'Course, that probably wasn't the best thing to do, but…well, it was Jackie.

"What? What're you…oh," Rose said as she turned, and that lead weight dropped even lower as he saw the bruises lining her face. Without giving another thought to Jackie, he raced forward and pushed the door open, taking her face in his hands.

"What happened?" he asked, and she grinned at him. The gesture looked so out of place among the black, purple, and red blotches. He brushed his thumb under her black eye, that weight twisting into so many complex knots.

"Bad day at the office," she said. "Weevil cult broke out and took over some floors – got smart with some guns, and…I'm fine, really! Don't look like that!"

"You look like…well, hell," he said, and she laughed.

"Been through worse," she said. She arched her neck and groaned. "Really wish you could've brought the med bay with you, though."

"What the hell's going on here?" they both turned to Jackie to find her standing there, looking exceptionally cross with her hands on her hips and…oh, no. He did not like the way her fingers were twitching like that. That usually meant…

"Erm, Rose, you did tell ol' Jacks here about my visits, right?" he asked, his hands dropping from her face as he took a step back towards the door. At Jackie's murderous look he threw up his hands. "Not that you're old!"

"Not as much, no," she said, giving him a nervous smile. "Just…never came up. Figured I'd tell her when you could come through for more than a day. Y'know, when I can go with you?"

"What're you two on about? He's been here before? When? Oh my God, you're taking her away again!" Jackie cried, and he ducked completely behind Rose at the terrified look her face.

"Thought you were worried about me – now you're using me as a shield?" Rose muttered to him, and he gulped.

"She won't slap you," he hissed at her. He felt her shake slightly, and he glanced at her to see her biting her lip to hide her laughter. He glanced back at Jackie to see she'd overcome her fear and was advancing.

"You listen here, you bloody Time Lord wanker," Jackie hissed, and Rose gave him a smile before she side-stepped. He opened his mouth to protest, but then he was being shoved against the wall by a dangerously manicured nail poking into his chest. "You made her a…a…a thing, and then you just dump her here for years and years, breaking her heart on your way, and then you think you can just swan back into her life and…and…take her away again?! I won't have it – I won't! You put our family back together just to rip us apart, and Mattie needs his big sister, and…and…oh, you…!"

He should have been used to that feeling of having his head leave his neck, and in all fairness he was – the Tyler Slap wasn't something you easily forgot. It was the crashing into the wall behind him and his glass jaw that gave him the problem.

When he came to a few minutes later, Rose and Jackie were still arguing. He was on Rose's bed, and she was sitting beside him with his head in her lap. He was rather enjoying the way her fingers were running through his hair , but then he heard Jackie's pacing and worried prattling and he found it hard to concentrate on the way her nails were lightly scratching his scalp.

"I didn't mean to kill him! I just…oh, but it's that ruddy jaw of his – don't know how he's survived all those nine hundred years he claims to have lived with it!" Jackie said, and he heard Rose sigh.

"He's had different bodies over the years, Mum – he hasn't always been this easy to knock out," she said. Jackie snorted.

"Well, lucky you are he never had to save the world by being a professional boxer – he'd never survive the sport!" she said, and Rose laughed.

"No, he wouldn't," she said. He groaned and frowned, and they both stopped to look at him.

"No, I wouldn't," he affirmed, "but I do play a mean game of cricket."

"Doctor! Oh God, I'm so sorry! How are you feeling? Do you need some ice? Bag of frozen peas, a steak, some aspirin?" Jackie asked, and he leapt up to find she had taken a seat next to them on the bed.

"NO!" he shouted, and Jackie paused to give him a look.

"Well, see if I ever offer you help again, you ungrateful git," she said, and Rose laughed.

"No, it's not that, Mum – he's allergic to aspirin," she said. "Could kill him."

"Oh," Jackie said, pausing.

"Well, only figures you'd offer – always knew you wanted to kill me," he muttered, rubbing his jaw. "Blimey, you've got a hand on you! I did not miss that, Jackie Tyler – I really didn't."

"I'm sorry, Doctor – it's the hormones. I don't know up from down most days when it comes to my moods," she said. "It's just a surprise, is all – you showing up like this. And Rose here said you've been by before – something about once a year? Does this mean she'll be going with you this time?"

"No," he said, and he gave Rose an apologetic look. "The walls are still too strong. Can't pull the TARDIS through just yet, but in another year or so and we might be luckier."

"Oh, thank God!" Jackie said, and Rose gave her an annoyed look. "Don't give me that look, Miss Tyler – you're still old enough to get a slap off me!"

"Mum, I want to go back with him!" Rose said. She looked down, and he barely heard the accompanying whisper. "Now more than ever…"

"I know you do, but honestly, Rose! You weren't even giving us time to get used to the idea – we didn't even know he was coming back! You were just gonna swan off again, weren't you? Without a goodbye or anything – how could you do that to us again, Rose? We're your family!" Jackie said, and Rose rounded on her with a fierce look.

"So's he, Mum!" she snapped, and Jackie paused. "He's the one I chose when I had to, and no, I wasn't gonna swan off! I was gonna tell you, I swear! Just…never found the right time."

"There's never a right time to tell your mum you're leaving her forever," Jackie said, and he held up a hand before she could continue. She raised a brow, and he sighed.

"Jackie, I thought she would have told you – I honestly did. I'm sorry you had to find out this way, but Rose does have a point," he said, and Jackie sighed.

"I know that," she snapped. "It's just my baby's leaving me again, and I'm pregnant, Doctor – do you expect me to be rational?!"

"I expect you to stop yelling at me," he said, and he scooted closer to Rose as Jackie leaned closer to him. "Or not – yell all you want, fine by me!"

"Oh, you…well, come on, then," Jackie said, pushing herself off the bed and turning to give them an expectant look when they stayed where they were. "Come on, we don't have all day!"

"Um…Mum, he's only here for a day," Rose said. He looked up at her and grinned.

"Oh, I do, don't I?" he asked, beaming at her. "Pulled me through right when the window opened – we've got twenty-four hours!"

"Seriously?" Rose asked, looking down at him. He nodded, and she grinned. "Fantastic!"

"Absolutely brilliant," he said, and they laughed as she leaned down to touch her nose to his.

"That's enough, you two – like you said, a whole day," Jackie said, and they looked back at her. "That's enough time for a family dinner. Pete and Mickey'll be thrilled to see you, Doctor. Oh, and Mattie – you haven't met Mattie yet!"

"The baby? Well, the first baby?" he asked, and Jackie nodded. He grinned. "How's he turned out, then?"

"Oh, still young enough to be a right little terror," Jackie said, and he looked up at Rose to see her biting her lip. So that's where she got that from. Figured.

"But, Mum, it's just a day," Rose said, looking back to Jackie.

"What, and you wanted all that time to yourselves? Lord only knows what you'd get yourselves into – best not leave you unsupervised," Jackie said, and he nearly gagged. She narrowed her eyes on him. "Oh, I know exactly what you were thinking, you bloody Time Lord wan-"

"Oy, can you please stop calling me that?!" he asked, frowning. "Really, I'd rather you stick with 'bloody alien git', if you must insult me at all – which I'm perfectly fine with, oh yes! Feel free to insult all you like!"

"You are such a wimp," Rose muttered, and he shot her a look. He was not a wimp – he was just terrified of her mother. There was a very healthy difference.

"You'll have plenty of time to shag my daughter later," Jackie said, and they both gagged at that.

"Mum!" Rose cried as he shouted out an exasperated "Jackie!"

"Oh, come off it – you both know I know that's what you're really wanting to get up to," Jackie said, and he sent Rose a scowl as she snorted. He was almost positive he heard her mutter "Up, indeed," but he ignored it as he looked back to Jackie.

"All right, fine – we'll come," he said. He looked back to Rose and ran a hand along her cheek. "As long as you explain about this at some point before I have to go."

"What's there to explain, Doctor?" she asked, reaching out and taking his hand. "I promised you forever. Looks like Bad Wolf wanted to make sure I kept it."

Kept it, indeed. Four more years had passed since that night, which they spent at the Tyler Estate talking and laughing with the family and being perfectly domestic. Most of those other years had been spent similarly, either with the family or just together in her flat. It had been ok, for the most part, but…this last time, this night, he didn't know if he could do it anymore.

"You will tell us where your bouncing brat is, Doctor!"

He coughed, looking up from where his captors had slammed him into the corner of their dark, dingy dungeon. Why was it always a dark, dingy dungeon? Just once he'd like a nice, clean, preferably sterile floor he was being thrown down and beat up on. Really, was it too much to ask?

"I will not!" he said, hoisting himself up off the ground. He ignored the fact that he didn't even have a bouncing brat and glared at his captors. The leader, a man that would have looked Chinese if not for the lavender skin (including those ridiculous boxy black hats, nearly fluorescent orange robes, and ridiculously triangular beard), rose a penciled-in eyebrow and grinned. Oh. Shiny green teeth. That was new.

"Oh, won't you?" he sneered, reaching over to hover his hand over a button. A big threatening button that probably should never ever…oh, sod it. He really wasn't in the mood right now.

"Right, I won't," he said. "I will not tell you where my bouncing brat is, I will not tell you where my blue box is, I will not take you to my leader, I will not tell you how I keep these trainers so white, I will not tell you how to reverse the po-OY!"

He was thrown into the air, forced into dangling upside-down because of…well, some gravity-affecting device connected to that big threatening button that probably shou-

"This really isn't fair! Let me down!" he said, and the Would-Be Chinese Man laughed. Oh, he hated the camp ones. He really, really did.

"I think not, Doctor! Not until you tell us where your brat is!" Would-Be Chinese Man barked, and he groaned as his head flopped back.

"Oh, come on – I don't have a brat! I haven't had a brat in ages – last of my kind, I am! I've never even been here before, well not yet at least, so really you've got the wrong me and – ACK!"

It was at that point he realized he had lost track of Earth time in his time on this planet, when he felt that jerking and slipped left and down – right onto his head, right onto Rose's floor.

"Oh my God!" he heard her cry, and he groaned as he let his body relax against the carpet. He kept his eyes closed, even when he felt her kneel by his side and hover her hands over him, not exactly sure how to help but wanting to all the same. "What the hell happened to you?!"

"Apparently my bouncing brat pissed off the royal family of…I think I'm feeling this four bodies back," he groaned. "Bright side, I think you just saved my arse from some horribly overdone death sequence. Maybe if I'm lucky by the time I get back they'll have cleared the room and I can get back to the TARDIS and – OW! What the hell did you do that for?!"

"Sorry – I was just trying to help!" she said, taking her hands out from under his head – and letting it drop back on the floor, sending another wave of pain down his spine. She winced at his cry, and he opened his eyes just slightly to see her run back over to the sofa. He closed them again as he felt her slide a cushion under his head, and he groaned.

"I'm getting too old for this," he muttered, and she laughed.

"Big strong Time Lord like you? Nah – just a bad day," she said. He cracked an eye open at her, and she grinned. "Should've seen me yesterday – could've murdered a hot bath and a…do you need anything?"

"A few minutes to get my head back on?" he asked, looking up at her. He smiled as he focused on her eyes, and he let out a weak laugh. "Hello."

"Hello," she said, laughing with him. He reached up and curled some of her hair around his fingers.

"You cut your hair," he said. She nodded. "I like it."

"S'nothing much, but I thought it'd be nice," she said. She ran a hand along the side of his face, and his eyes closed at the contact. "I'll go make you a cuppa, yeah? You stay here, or go to the sofa if you can make it. But…I'll just be a mo, yeah?"

She leaned down and kissed him, and he sighed as she pulled away. Much better than Mr. Would-Be Chinese man. He stayed there on the floor, getting his bearings back in place and reorienting himself with the world of not running for your life. He stretched slightly, feeling out his injuries and nodding; the worst was his head, and that was only from his fall. He hadn't been prisoner long enough to accrue any serious damage.

"Got your tea," she said, and he opened his eyes as she set it on the table next to them. She sat back by his head and frowned at him. "What happened again? And what's this about a bouncing brat?"

"No idea," he said. "I was just there for a quick visit, and the next thing I know I'm being arrested because some toddler that was supposedly mine insulted the royal family. I tried telling them I didn't have a toddler, but of course they wouldn't listen to me. What's the look for, then?"

She was smiling, ever so slightly, and looking out the window. He reached up and touched her face, and when she looked back at him her smile widened. He grinned; he knew that look all too well.

"What've you figured out that I haven't?" he asked, and she placed her hand over his.

"Might not've been you, but it might've been a future you – a future you with a future me and a future toddler that goes around insulting royals," she said. He laughed, and she laughed with him. "Chip off the old block, I'd say."

"They definitely weren't amused by whatever she had done," he said, and her eyes widened.

"She?" she asked, and he nodded.

"That's what they told me," he said. He sighed and let his eyes close again, relaxing against her. "Can we not see the family this time? I really don't feel like a row with Jackie after cracking my head on your floor. I could just stay right here, to be honest. I rather like it right here."

"Floor's not very comfortable, though. We should move you to the sofa, or the bed. Get you off the floor and your head on some proper pillows," she said. He grinned, reaching up for her hand and chuckling as she grasped his.

"You just want me in your bed, Miss Tyler," he said, and she laughed.

"You've found me out, my good Doctor," she said. She leaned down and kissed him again, languorously this time. "I want you in my bed so I can have my way with you – but I want your head better first."

"I want you back, Rose," he said, and she paused as he opened his eyes. She frowned at the intense look there, so determined yet weary and torn at the same time.

"You've got me back," she said, but he shook his head.

"I don't want just one sodding day with you," he said. He took her hand and brought it to his lips, placing a kiss against her palm. "I want you back home. I want the TARDIS to have your laughter in her again. I want to wake up every morning to find you right there next to me. I want to grab your hand when I'm running somewhere, or have you with me when I'm tossed in some prison. I want to take you back to Cardiff so you can see Jack, and introduce you to Donna and Martha, and take you by Sarah Jane's to meet Luke. I want you there telling me when I'm being rude again, and making me stop when I've been working on the TARDIS too long or about to do something I really shouldn't. I want you home, Rose."

"I know, Doctor," she said, squeezing his hand. "I want me home, too. Any idea how much longer it'll take before you can bring her through?"

He looked up at her, his face torn.

"I…" he started, but then he lost his courage – always the coward, he was. He looked out the window, and she ran a hand through his hair. His eyes closed, and he sighed. "I don't know if she'll ever be able to come through, Rose. And I don't know how to bring you back with me. I've hit a wall, and I can't for the life of me figure out how to break through it."

"Stop it," she snapped, and he looked up at her to find her glaring at him. He paused, taking in her hard stare and determined eyes. "Just stop it, you bloody Time Lord git. I'm coming through someday – you know I am. Those gits that captured you today told you as much. You'll figure it out somehow, but don't you dare give up."

"Rose…" he sighed, but he stopped when she shook her head.

"I haven't given up on you, Doctor," she said. "You'll find a way – you always do. Just believe in yourself, yeah? Believe in me – in us. In that little girl that's gonna go around not amusing royals all across the universe. Don't take our forever away now that we finally have it back. Don't you dare."

And with that she leaned down and kissed him hard, willing all of her faith and trust and hope into him through that one simple gesture. And he was forced to remember his words, so very long ago, as she ran a hand under his jacket and down his chest. She was right – he believed in her. And that was enough – it had to be. It always was before.

He looked up at the first rays of dawn slinking in through the open balcony doors, and a part of him cursed them. He felt more time slip through his hands as the room grew brighter, and he knew it would be time soon. He'd be gone with the morning light, and she'd be left alone again for another year. They both would be.

But she was right: he couldn't give up yet. He would find a way to make it work, somehow – he would be coming through on his own next year, and he'd be bringing her back with him. Because he couldn't live like this anymore, and he knew she couldn't, either. They needed each other, and not just once a year. His eyes slid closed as he felt the jerking in his gut, and he ducked his head to press a kiss to her temple. He ghosted his lips to her ear, and she shifted slightly as his breath tickled her hair.

"One more year, Rose Tyler," he whispered to her, even as he felt himself being pulled back. "One more year and I'll bring you home for good."