Part Six: Future
"Here we are." Forcing the words past the lump in his throat was almost impossible, but Rose took his hand, squeezed it, and led him to the doors. But she waited, let him open them, seeming to know that he had to.
"Is this your home?" she whispered, her hand tight on his.
The Doctor shook his head; it took a long moment for speech to come. "Just a moon. But it's the largest piece left, the base of the Cruciform."
He led her to the right—this time, the TARDIS had landed facing the stone building—and finally managed to bring his head up. To look at the shattered rocks, the dusty debris, the ashes floating in space that even time would never erase. To look at home.
"That's Gallifrey," he found himself saying softly. "What's left, anyway. All that's left."
There was a tug on his hand, and Rose pulled him down to sit with their backs against the TARDIS, her arm around his waist. Slowly, he let his head drop onto her shoulder, still staring out at his destroyed planet, but allowing himself to find comfort in her embrace. After a long moment, the Doctor wrapped his arms around her, and felt Rose pull him even closer.
"Will you tell me what it was like?" she whispered. "Before the war?"
He hated to speak of it. Only had once. Yet, somehow his lips started moving, and then he was talking and couldn't stop, telling her about red grass and orange skies, about two suns and the Panopticon. He spoke of silver leaves on giant trees, of the Academy and the Untempered Schism and even the High Council, their dusty tradition-bound ways and the way he'd always defied them.
He told her about the mountains and his childhood best friend, about how they'd both defied everything and everyone they could, then had taken to the stars and wound up battling their way through eternity as best enemies. And he told her about the startling discovery that he was not alone, and that not only had another survived it was that very same best friend…who he'd held in his arms as the other died, leaving him alone, alone in a very real and empty sense.
Every memory was wrapped up in others; he finally told her about Susan, about stealing the TARDIS, about running away and running and running and running. Always running, because he craved more than the quiet life that his people claimed to be suited for. He told her things that he'd never dreamed of telling anyone else, ever, weeping in the shadow of his destroyed world and finally pouring his heart out.
When he thought he had no more tears to weep, Rose wiped them away gently.
"Will you tell me what happened here? How Gallifrey burned?"
Had it been anyone else, he might have shut down. Locked them out. Shoved away and simply went on with his life. But not Rose. Never, ever Rose.
"I did it," he said simply. Heavily. Closed his eyes against more tears, then just gave in and let himself sob.
Several long minutes passed before he could even think of continuing.
"We'd lost the war. Oh, there was a chance—even if it was a tiny one—but if that attack, the attack on Skaro, failed, we knew that there'd be nothing else. We were trying so desperately to pull them away from here so we could take the Cruciform back…but the Daleks didn't fall for it. Not for any of it.
"We knew the solution. I…I helped come up with it. Probably my idea, in the end. And when the High Council had asked for volunteers, no one would. None of us could ever consider not just destroying Gallifrey but destroying ourselves…" The breath he sucked in was more a shudder than anything else; somehow, he managed to keep talking. "So I volunteered. When they asked me. Begged me. And I swore that I would see it through."
The Doctor closed his eyes again, turning his face into Rose's shoulder and unable to look at the world he'd destroyed. The Oncoming Storm. The Bringer of Darkness. The Destroyer of Worlds. He didn't want to remember Romana's pale face, didn't want to remember his own desperate explanation of the options lying before them—
"So I did. When our attack on Skaro failed, I ran. Not from the battle, but for my TARDIS…and I went to the Schism—not our Untempered Schism, but the one they'd made, and linked to ours unintentionally.
"And I destroyed us all. Daleks, Time Lords, Skaro, and Gallifrey. Everything."
Rose didn't say a word, just held him tighter, rubbing his back and kissing his hair. Just being there, the first person he'd ever told it all to. The first person he'd ever even contemplated baring his soul to.
All in all, he wasn't even quite sure what had made him start talking. Just that now he couldn't stop.
"I thought I'd die. I was sure I'd die, and I hadn't even imagined living. And then I was quite sure that I wouldn't ever really liveagain…and then I met you."
"Me?" her voice is tiny, somehow, she who saved him in more ways than he can count.
He pulled back, managing to look at her, somehow, without weeping over the sight that is Gallifrey, just past her left shoulder. "Yeah," he said with a small smile. "You."
The Doctor hugged her tight, then, wanting to kiss her but feeling that this wasn't the place. He wasn't looking for absolution, after all. Just a little peace.
"Rose Tyler. My own little slice of hope for the future."
"Forever," she said softly, and he is able to believe her.
Later, they'll talk about why she hasn't aged, and what that might mean. In the shadow of a burned-out planet, he's not quite ready for hope, even if he has figured out how to face the future. For the moment, it's enough to pull Rose to her feet and look out at Gallifrey one last time, his tears finally dry.
"I promised Jack a visit," he says, holding his right hand out to her and wiggling his fingers, just so. "Game?"
She beams up at him, and there is light in his world. "Always."
Author's Note: That's it for this one, but I'm contemplating writing a sequel titled "A Little Peace." I've got a bit of a bunny for it, so please let me know if you think that I ought to…or if this story stands well on it's own.
Aside from that, stay tuned for my next two Doctor Who stories: "The Oncoming Storm" (the first story in a Time War trilogy—including the events referenced here in RB) and "Full Circle" (in which the Duplicate 10th Doctor turns out to be the Valeyard, and the Doctor must decide if he should save Rose or not). I'm new to the DW fandom, so please do let me know what you think!