'He's alone, isn't he?'
Rose didn't know where the question came from, but it just flowed from her lips before she'd realised she'd broken the silence. They were in a cab coming from Dårlig Ulv Stranden, heading to the nearest airport. Pete would meet them in London, Jackie having called ahead and telling him they'd be back late.
Jackie was sitting in the front of the cab with the driver, while Rose and the new human Doctor sat in the back, their hands tightly entwined as they had been since the TARDIS vanished. She had been sitting with her head on his shoulder, watching her fingers stroking the long fingers of his hand, silently thinking until the feeling hit her.
'He's alone again.'
That was the difference between this Doctor. He didn't try to hide the words behind a nod. He told her that her Doctor would carry on alone…at least for a while. He'd told her, those three little words. The ones that broke and fixed her heart in one confusing second.
Because she knew now that her Doctor… the one that had returned to the parallel world… the one that was no longer hers… he would never have been able to say it. Even if they'd had longer on that beach… he would never have been able to tell her. And perhaps that would have hurt her even more. Because, when he had been cut off, she had been able to tell herself that he was going to say the words she so desperately wanted to hear. Her dreams had been filled with what could have been, what he was about to say.
But now she knew that he couldn't.
But this him could. He had, and had finally fixed the heart that had been so battered and cracked over the years that it had been held together by the bits of sellotape that was her family, but he had finally made her whole again.
But at what cost?
She could feel it. Had felt it minutes after the TARDIS had de-materialised. The feeling that was not her own of complete loneliness, of anger with the universe.
'Donna couldn't take it,' the Doctor- he was the Doctor after all, if not the Lonely God any more- said quietly, stoking her hair soothingly, 'there has never been a Human/Time Lord metacrisis before us. Her mind was being burned out by all the knowledge in her head- she couldn't take it. The other me has wiped her memories of her time with me- us… oh this is going to be confusing…'
'Then… won't the same happen to you?' her head snapped up to look at him, worry etched into her features, 'if you're the same as her, are you going to start burning up too?'
'No, I've got the base-Time Lord template, but with the Human side mainly physical. She had the base-Human with all that knowledge crammed into her mind. She couldn't cope with that. No-one would be able to.'
'She'll never know what she could achieve. She'll never know that she did all those things… that she was the most important person in all of creation. Such a waste.'
'But she'll be safe,' the Doctor said quietly, 'she'll be safe, away from the danger.'
'But at what cost?' Rose countered weakly, 'to never know what it means to be alive, to look at the sky and wonder, but never know what's out there. To lose that feeling when you step out onto a new planet, a new time…'
'But she never knew. He had to wipe everything. Every little memory,' a bitter laugh, 'you can't miss what you didn't know you had.'
She looked at him, studying him sadly. 'But you'll remember. You'll… both of you… iwe'll/i miss her. We'll remember her.'
'We'll remember ifor/i her.'
Rose laid her head back on the Doctor's shoulder, and silence fell in the cab, Norwegian scenery flashing by, but neither the Doctor nor Rose were looking, both lost in their own thoughts.
A gentle shuddering brought the Doctor out of his thoughts.
She didn't move, but an almost inaudible gasp escaped her as she tried to contain her emotions.
'Don't hide away from me Rose. I've gone too long without you for you to pull back now.'
'It's silly,' she said with a watery laugh.
'Nothing you ever think is silly.'
She swallowed hard.
'I was… I was thinking about what he said… the other Doctor. He said that you were born of fire and blood and revenge. That you were… that you were the you when we first met. But... when you regenerated… I wanted that old Doctor back,' she gave a slightly hysterical laugh, 'Ironic isn't it?'
'Rose, listen… I'm the same man you said goodbye to one that beach, and I always will be. But I… you're right… he's right. I committed genocide, again. And I've been punished for that. That's why he sent me here; to make his- our universe safe. Because without you… a man like me is dangerous. I need you to be there when I need stopping. I need you be there when I miss what I once had'
'But… you never wanted this. Even human, you know what it's like to travel amongst the stars.' She looked him in the eyes, searching, 'how can you not be furious that you have to stay down here on Earth, rattling along on the slow path with all us apes, pretending you don't know the name for all the night's stars? How can you live this life when you know when every great event in the universe is going to happen and know that you can't go see it? How can you-'
'Because I have you.'
That was it. That one line brought it all home. Made it clear that this was as much a gift as it was a punishment for the Human Doctor.
'While he must carry on alone.'
The Doctor stayed silent.
'I have a Doctor for the rest of my forever… but he doesn't have a Rose,' she remembered a conversation that they had shared a long time ago, outside a chip shop in London, 'all of us… we can give him our forever… but he can't do the same for us. He has to carry on… alone…'
'That's the curse of the Time Lords.'
They looked at each other, all the barriers that she had seen in the old Doctor had been stripped of this new version- her version, she guessed sadly. She could see the hurt, the pain, the sadness for everything that had happened in the last few hours. The terrible guilt that thrummed behind his eyes for what he had done.
But also the love that she had always seen in his eyes everyday since they met, that she had dreamt about.
No more hiding. No more secrets.
'Forever, Doctor.' She answered to a question he didn't need to ask again. To the question which had eternally been in his eyes.
'Forever, Rose. Both our forevers.'
He kissed her then, just because she was there, and he was Human, and that there was no point denying yourself something that you can have forever, and because there was going to be no more running away.
Not from her.
Not from himself.
And as they pulled away, realised that the cab was stopping, that they were at the airport, he gently- oh so gently- pushed away a strand of hair from her ear, and he whispered the three words in her ear that he had on the beach.
Three beautiful, glorious words.
'We love you.'