Title: Time Has Made Me

Characters: Ten/Rose

Spoilers: for the end of the new season

Rating: PG 13

Summary: Even here, at the end of all things, she takes a little convincing.

Note: All the italics but the very last bit are from Pink Floyd songs.

Mile after mile, stone after stone/ Turn to speak but you're alone

The air where he once stood is empty.

She looks, pointedly, down at their joined hands. "No," she says, and lets go, and walks away.

He doesn't understand this. She's never told him no before. He thinks she doesn't mean it, and then he looks at her back and he looks at Jackie who looks at him and then rushes after her disappearing daughter, and then he realizes that she does. She does mean it. She probably means it more than anything: more than kissing him. More than goodbye.

He doesn't know why she means it; he just knows that it is, and that something must be done. But he doesn't know what.

So he follows behind them, hands in his pockets, because at this point he's too tired to chase anyone. His single heart echoes dully in the cavern of his chest, without companion, without recourse.

The lunatic is in my head

You raise the blade, you make the change

You rearrange me till I'm sane

You lock the door, throw away the key

There's someone in my head, but it's not me

They've found a train headed towards home from the nearest town, which, he is surprised to find, he does not know the name of. It doesn't look familiar, at any rate, and he wonders if it's the one place on earth he's never been. Or perhaps it's just different in this universe? Perhaps he would recognize it, were he in his proper place. He holds onto the thought. It's a comfort.

They're traveling, and he has to school his own thoughts to take in the sights and not wish the actual journeying part of the journey was over faster.

"You're worse than a kid," Jackie tells him, watching his knee jiggle up and down. She fishes in her pockets, which are nearly as voluminous as his, and comes up with half a candy bar. "Here. Concentrate on that."

He picks fuzz off the chocolate, and sets to eating it as slowly as possible to help pass the time, suddenly aware of Rose's eyes on him. She's sitting on the other side of Jackie, and has only been polite, as to an old acquaintance that she hadn't seen in a very long time and wasn't sure she still wanted to be friends with. This isn't a good thought, and he shoves it ruthlessly to the back of his mind which is, blessedly, just as capacitous as in his other body, his proper body; it's only that many of the links are severed, and he doesn't feel anywhere near as in tune with the universe as he did once.

The candy gone, he removes a Slinkie from his pocket, coil by coil, disentangling it from fishing wire and bits of twine and a small spare part like a washer from the TARDIS— he'd been doing repairs in this suit, apparently, and somewhere his other self was going to be clutching his head and groaning when he realized he'd left it behind, because after all it wasn't as though spare parts for the TARDIS were exactly easy to attain. Leaning across Jackie, with one long arm he hands the end of the Slinkie to Rose and says, "Pull."

She does, and just as he senses that she would like to be away from him but is reluctant to go, she senses that he wants her to take this to its full capacity; and so she stands and moves away from them down towards the back of the car, while the Doctor sits holding the other end and watching complacently out the window at the speeding green countryside. It's not your average earth Slinkie but rather something he picked up from the planet of Bellefrax in the Holtgarach Empire, and she is well out of the car and halfway into the next one before it reaches its limit. They are far away from each other but both feel the tension, and they let go at the same time. The Slinkie zoings together, pulling its extremities in, and lands in a deceptively small coil in the middle of the aisle.

The Doctor is glad to see that some things, at least, do not change.

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun

Now there's a look in your eye, like black holes in the sky

Shine on

He has no TARDIS. He hadn't thought of that when he'd stranded himself here. This is terrifying him more than anything. Where will he live, and how?

Jackie, surprisingly, tells him not to worry. She's looking happy, peaceful, complacent now that they've reached back home, and Pete and tiny Anthony are seated next to her on the couch. She holds Pete's hand. Rose has gone to shower, wash the dust of another universe out of her hair and off her feet.

"Plenty of room here, long as you need it," Jackie tells him, and Pete agrees. Rose still lives with them, because when she left the Doctor she couldn't bear to leave anyone else, or let them leave her, but needed everyone close for comfort. Now that the Doctor is here and still not, really, who knows where she will go? Her need for space has suddenly reasserted itself.

The Doctor consents to the spare bedroom, and the spare bed with slightly musty-smelling sheets, and is assured that there will be breakfast in the morning. He has the sneaking suspicion that Jackie is going to try to fatten him up, since he no longer has a Time Lord metabolism to resist her cooking whiles.

Halfway through the night he moves himself to the floor, because it's closer to the earth— this other earth— and he wants to feel the thrum of energy coursing through it, from human brains down through their feet and down to the ground and then up to him. He's just come to the realization that he himself is now part of this energy, this vast low hum, when he admits to himself that it wasn't what he really wanted at all. But the floor is more comfortable than the bed, and so he stays, and that's where Jackie finds him in the morning, and tells him off for drooling on the carpet.

Rose never said goodnight, though he fell asleep waiting for her, and he decides this is a good thing.

All you touch and all you see

is all your life will ever be.

He's been there a week before she really smiles at him. It takes him so much by surprise that he actually falls off his chair at the dinner table. He knows he's been steadily building up what he wants to call "street cred" but which is actually Doctor cred— he knows that every day she becomes a little more convinced that he has more in common with her Doctor than just the same face and body. He's caught her looking, anyway. Outright staring when she thought he was distracted. Studying his nose, his eyes, his lips, and fighting thoughts away because she's too afraid of being wrong, and of betraying him.

She goes outside after dinner, and at length he follows her, leaving her parents to do the dishes even though he's been doing them faithfully every evening.

"I didn't mean no, no ever," she says eventually. "I meant, no, not now."

They sit together in the dark, not touching.

"Time is a bit more important than it was before," he ventures at last.

"Time has always been important, to me. I never had as much of it as you," she tells him. It's a cutdown and a rejection, in a way, and he feels deeply ashamed. He sighs, and rubs a hand across his eyes.

"Never judge a person till you've walked a mile in their shoes," he reminds himself out loud. "Then at least, you'll be a mile away and they won't have any shoes."

Her smile is a small gleam in the darkness. The streetlamps on their street are in need of replacing. A zeppelin floats overhead like a watcher.

"Alright, then," she says, with a show of reluctance though really she's been waiting to ask him this all week, "if you're him— prove it. What was the first thing you said to me?"

They've been over this before, long ago when he had first changed, and they both know it. It's so familiar that he has to smile before he can answer. "I told you to run. If you'll notice, I never did tel you to stop."

He answers question after question that she puts to him, about her eating habits, sleeping habits, washing habits, what they had done on this planet, who they saved on that planet, and what did he feel when she was in danger, and what had he said when he got her back. He answers them all, steadily, with unimpeachable memory. When she gets to the one about the day she promised him forever, he moves suddenly but slowly, and begins to unbutton her shirt from the bottom up. He does it steadily, matter-of-factly, and stops when he reaches her bra, leaving the top two done up. Then, still answering the questions and ignoring her quickened breathing, he leans in, lays his cheek against her belly, holds his lips still for a moment. One hand slips around her back. He huddles there in the shelter of her, open shirt framing his face, and when she looks down she sees his eyes are closed. His hair tickles and she fights back the urge to laugh and in retaliation her hand, quite without permission, slides into his hair, fingers curling around the curve of his scalp. He makes a small, quite indefinable noise and huddles, impossibly, closer.

"Did he want to do this, all that time?"

"He is me, Rose," came the Doctor's voice from below, muffled and sleepy-sounding.

Using stealth unbuttoning tactics he's got her trousers undone, but doesn't appear to have any inclination to move forward past that. He's got her all open and vulnerable in the middle of everything and is doing his best to fill the void with himself, and she suddenly realizes that this is not the Doctor trying to comfort Rose. This is the Doctor trying to comfort the Doctor. His hand on her back is warm but tentative; the other moves slowly, restlessly, one finger curling a nautilus around her belly button, his pinky sliding farther downwards as he splays his hand out flat, and she's stopped breathing completely now and is thinking in the white noise and heat of her mind, Oh, this is weird.

"This is weird," the Doctor says, suddenly, and sits up, which is worse. He can't look at her, but settles forwards, arms on his knees, and contemplates the empty street.

She sits still and doesn't move for a moment in the hopes that he'll conquer his feelings about the weirdness of it all, and come back to help her conquer hers; but he seems content to sit in companionable silence, and at long last she sighs and does up her buttons as quietly and unostentatiously as possible.

"Time is more important than ever, Rose," he says after a long while. It is getting late, and around them the houselights are going out, one by one. "We've got a timeline that we can't cross, still, and there won't be any cheap tricks." He pauses, to remember that he used this line of reasoning on Martha, not Rose, and she won't know what he's talking about. He sighs. This is all so complicated now, now that he's only got the one shot at it. "What I'm saying is, we should take it slowly so as to make no mistakes."

If he thinks that humans don't make mistakes in their relationships, he's got another think coming, she wants to tell him but doesn't. Instead she says, "In your own time, then," but what she really means is, in hers. Because he may be a copy of another man, a different and yet the same man, without home or fortune, exiled from his world, but she's the one who's hurting. Because he doesn't miss himself. And she does.

Leave but don't leave me

"There's something about bad wolf," he tells her, now that they are friendly and companionable again. The Doctor and Rose. The old equation. They hold hands and finish each other's sentences and everyone who knows them is convinced that they are sharing each other's bed as well, except Jackie, who's sat through enough sleepless nights with a crying Rose and a vacant Doctor to know otherwise.

"No, it's Mary," Rose corrects, allowing a grin to sneak onto her face. "'There's Something About Mary.' It's a film."

He doesn't dignify this with a reply, merely thwaps her lightly. "It told me you were coming back, you know."

"I know." She'd told Donna. She wanted him to know, wanted him to anticipate, wanted him to spend sleepless nights waiting, wondering when she was going to show up. It was selfish of her, but still, there it was. It didn't happen that way, anyhow.

"Everywhere, big bright letters— even on the TARDIS." He's musing, and forgets to allow the note of sorrow to stain his voice when he mentions the name of his beloved lost ship. "Bad Wolf, everywhere I looked. And you came back, sure enough."

"But?" she prompts, because she knows that's what's coming next.

"But," he says, slowly, "is it enough? That you came back, I mean? Did the vortex hold onto you just so I could see you again? Is that right, is that fair? Is the universe in some odd alignment where worlds are broken and galaxies destroyed merely so you can give me a good snog because you never got the chance before?"

She laughs, and she's blushing, and neither of them mention that it wasn't the chances she was lacking.

"You think there's something else," she finished.

"Donna changed the world," he muses. "Without ever knowing what she would do." His gaze shifts to her. "Who knows what we've got in front of us."

She loves it, that he says we. She just doesn't want him to know she loves it, so she ducks her head to hide how pleased she is. He knows it anyway.

I'm the man on the outside looking in, waiting on the first step

Show me where the key is kept

Point me down the right line because it's time

to let me in.

Three months now, and he is sure she is as convinced as she ever will be. She is still crying into her pillow, but with less frequency now, and she focuses on their work and their friendship, and if it wasn't for the fact that at one point he caught her looking at him in this new way, this strange way, this echoingly familiar way, this wouldn't be happening.

She looks at him the way she used to look at him, except with fear, because now she knows that she can act on it. It undoes him, that she's afraid to.

This is less about time than he wants it to be because he suddenly feels that there is none; he's too ready and she's not willing and he's kissing her desperately, trying to make her see the light. She pushes him away but he's insistent if gentle and he keeps going back for more, catching her as often as he can while she puts her fists on his shoulders and shoves, and he stands aghast when she starts to cry, and when she lets him kiss her he knows it's not acquiescence or desire, but defeat. So he takes her by the chin and he holds her very still and her eyes are shut and he says, "Rose Tyler." She is very still. How did he speak? He tries to remember. When he was the old Doctor, her first Doctor, the one with the big ears and the Northern accent. When he talks now, he can't keep his own fractured sibilants from staining his voice but he does his best.

"Rose Tyler, now you listen to me. I'm here if you want, when you want, but you can't be afraid. You can't ever be afraid of me, Rose, or I'll die. I'll die right here and now if you fear me." She's shaking so he throws his arms around her and holds her close and they shake together. "Please," he whispers into her hair. "I've been feared enough."

She can't get rid of the crippling fear that he's going to change if she loves him too much.

She won't tell him, though.

When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse

Out of the corner of my eye

I turned to look, but it was gone

I cannot put my finger on it now

The child is grown, the dream is gone

"Don't you want to be called something else?" she asked him once, soon after.

He's utterly baffled by this. "What, like Steve, or Henry, or Stan? Can't do Stan. Never trust a Stan, Rose Tyler. They're just one letter away from Satan."

"Something other than the Doctor," she prompts gently, and he knows then that she will never give up. He is always going to be different. He is hers, as well, but he's the one wearing blue.

"Why should I?" he says, and he forces his tone to be light. "That's who I am, isn't it?"

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

The time is gone, the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

"Knew there was something up."

He's found his 149th grey hair. But he's not looking at his reflection in the mirror anymore, but is looking at her. She shifts a bit uncomfortably under his gaze. They both know she's not dying her hair anymore; it's settled down to a nondescript sort of dishwater blonde, and seems unlikely to change.

"After all this time," he says, and starts to laugh. "I was wrong!"

She's glad he finds this so funny. He is something around 930 years old, give or take a few millennia— but the 30 years she is very sure of. He'd made her dinner for their anniversary last week, and burnt it to a crisp when she'd showed up wearing his old suit jacket and nothing underneath. It makes her feel pleasantly illicit to be loved by this old man; because that's what it's been all along. It's just now, everyone knows it. It looks like exactly what it is. She finds this to be a comfort. Their May-December romance was never more obvious.

He's gotten old. He looks distinguished. He looks surprised at himself for looking distinguished. No matter how old his face gets, his eyes will after all always be older.

She is the same. She has not changed. He was wrong, and with a well-tuned sense of humor after all this time she is able to admit that it is, after all, quite funny. But it is also very sad, and when he falls asleep beside her that night she sets her clock to wake her in the earliest morning, so she can check his breathing and his heartbeat. She's afraid of losing him too soon, but knows that this is ludicrous: there will never be a good time to let him go.

And I'm not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying?

Somewhere, there's a grave with his name on it.

She's going to go find him, to tell him. She wants him to know.

Open up your heart, I'm coming home.

Time has made me what I am

And only time will wear me down

To nothing.