What Happens Next
Disclaimer: BBC owns all. Making no profit off of this.
Summary: Post-"Journey's End." Spoilers. Rose-POV. He's like the Doctor I am in love with. He is, to a point, the Doctor I am in love with. But suddenly he's more and he's less and he's something different and altogether new.
Note: first time actually writing something in first-person narrative. Holy smokes! Not beta'd.
For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926)
The TARDIS is gone; dematerialised while my back was turned and my attention elsewhere – now, really, Rose, is that what they're calling it these days?
His hand brushes up against mine, slowly, cautiously. A part of me is appalled as the things I have just uttered in these past few minutes flies through my head again:
"But he's not you!"
I wince internally, and turn my head to look up at the Doctor standing next to me. He's looking down, searching my gaze through familiar chocolate-y coloured eyes, with a slight tug on the corner of his mouth, curving the left corner of his lips upwards.
His hand curls around mine and our fingers intertwine.
I've spent so much time thinking he's not the proper Doctor that I've forgotten he's lost something too; the TARDIS, and Donna Noble. His home and his best friend.
It's a bit of a cheap deal, isn't it? We've lost what we've both wanted and yet we also receive what we want so desperately. How self-sacrificing. How… completely Doctor-ish.
I almost wish mum slapped him earlier.
As we both stare out over the churning grey sea and the dull, brown rocks that litter the beach, I find myself remembering the last time I stood on this beach, two years ago.
I had loved him from the start. Well, not the immediate start—I wasn't dumb enough for that, not after Jimmy Stones and everything that happened there. I wanted adventure, mystery, something new and something different and more out of the life of a London shopgirl.
I was engaged once.
I almost had a house with carpets, and proper doors, and a mortgage.
I worked any and all which hours at Henrick's and I cleaned up after people, feeling like that was the best my life was going to get.
And then I met the Doctor.
He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882), Address on The Method of Nature, 1841
Aliens. Aliens! Real, proper aliens. From different planets and different solar systems and through time and into space and it was fabulous and oh-so-different.
And I fell in love. I fell in love with his daft old face, as he called it; with its elegance and character and those bright, intense blue eyes. I fell in love with who he was, who he is and who he would be.
I fell in love with the fear and horror and the nightmares that the Time War had left him with, and the way they defined his life. How the Time War and his loss made him stronger; made him ache for a connection; made him need. It felt good to be needed, in a way that was different from the way Mickey and mum needed me. It felt good to be needed—as though I was the very air he breathed.
I fell in love with the compassion, the kindness, the gentle Time Lord who opened my eyes to the wonders of the Universe. I fell in love with the way he showed me the most beautiful planets and stars, the most beautiful, everyday lives of the people of the other planets and different times. How I wasn't so different from them; there were shopgirls longing for more—there were daughters and mothers and girlfriends just like me. Meeting Gwyneth had showed me that no matter where and when I was, I wasn't really ever far from the familiar.
I fell in love with the fights, with the fear and adrenaline, and need to prove what was right and what was wrong and saving the day. I could never do that back at the Estate. I could never do that back on Earth. But travelling with the Doctor—he showed me what was right and wrong and how to save the world while you saved yourself and learned how to live a better, a fantastic life. I fell in love with that too; not the glory that came from saving the day, but the feel of his hand in mine as we raced against time itself to help these everyday people live a little longer, see a little more, live their lives.
I always loved him. I love him, here and now.
A glance to my left, out of the corner of my eye, shows that the Doctor next to me is still staring out at the cresting waves, his grip around my hand tight and the lines around his eyes are more defined than they usually are.
He's hurting too.
The TARDIS was his home. He still has all the same memories, experiences, loves lost and found, friends coming and going, that the Doctor had until the moment of his existence on the TARDIS with Donna. After that, he became his own being. He had his own memories, his own experiences to add to his life that were different than the other Doctor's, the Doctor who was back in the other universe and not in Pete's World.
Donna imprinted on him, the same way he had imprinted on me when he regenerated. The Doctor next to me is a bit tougher, a bit more abrasive, a bit more temperamental and moody than the one who left us here on Bad Wolf Bay.
I can hear it, all there in my head. The memory rushes by—"That's me, when we first met. And you made me better. Now you can do the same for him… he needs you. That's very me."—and my silly reply.
"But he's not you."
No, no he isn't. He isn't the Doctor who got back into the TARDIS with Donna and flew back through the vortex and the gap to the universe I was born in. He's like the Doctor I am in love with. He is, to a point, the Doctor I am in love with. But suddenly he's more and he's less and he's something different and altogether new.
The thought hits me suddenly: God—how did Mickey and mum manage with Pete and Jake and Mickey/Rickey's gran? How did they cope knowing they were replacing people who were loved and cared for by Pete and Jake—people who had their own quirks and likes and dislikes? People had their own memories and experiences and who made mistakes and had celebrations that mum and Mickey never experienced, never knew of?
How is the Doctor—the one beside me—handling this? Knowing he is made from a piece of the Doctor, a cut-off hand, with the same memories and experiences that I had with him before… only now with additional memories and experiences and adventures with Donna those precious few moments before we all met up?
Almost a thousand years of memories and experiences in his mind, of places he can never travel to, can never see. How can he bear it?
A sob bubbles up in my throat and I ruthlessly stamp it down before it escapes, but a tight whimper does escape, drawing his attention to me.
His hand squeezes mine, once, tightly. He looks down at me, standing there beside him.
I know, his eyes are saying. It hurts.
I bite my lip and squeeze his hand back. It isn't fair, I want to shout. But who ever said life was fair?
But I will run until my feet no longer run no more
And I will kiss until my lips no longer feel no more
And I will love until my heart it aches
And I will love until my heart it breaks
And I will love until there's nothing more to live for
-- Amy MacDonald, "Run"
"What do you want to do now?" I ask. It's his choice as much as it's mine and mum's and dad's. He may be earthbound now, but I won't make him stay with me if he doesn't want to. The other Doctor may think that he needs me, to heal him or make him feel about what he did—genocide? Daleks? Really, Doctor, hypocritical much given Gallifrey and Skaro and Game Station 5 and now the Cruciform?—and I won't make him feel like I consider him a duty.
He may not be the Doctor I had thought of spending the rest of my forever with, but he is still the Doctor.
He shrugs, raising his free hand to rub the back of his neck.
Painful to watch, painful to acknowledge the familiar movement I've dreamt about seeing again for years but at the same time, gratifying. He's nervous and uncomfortable too.
It's a two-way street we've on. We've both been thrust into our roles; me as his guide and caretaker and him as my lover and confidante.
"What is supposed to happen next?" he asks instead.
"Whatever you want to happen," I reply. "I was here in this universe without you before, an' I can continue on in my life without you, if it happens. You're the one with the clipped wings, Doctor. I won't make you stay if you don't want to."
He tilts his head back, looking up at the high-noon sun, the rays warming his face and turning his cheeks a bit pink. His hair shines in the light and I see him as the Lonely God he is—was?
"I need you," he finally says, simply, as if stating a fact. "I always have. And I always will. The Doctor and Rose."
I offer a tentative smile. "The stuff of legends?"
He returns the smile, a large one full of teeth and crinkled eyes and laugh lines. "Oh, yes."
We're just smiling at each other, and some of the worry I felt leaves me. He's still the Doctor. Just with different options, now.
"Oi, are you two just gonna stand there makin' eyes at each other?"
We jump and turn and I see mum standing there with her hands on her hips. "Pete says that we should get to the nearest town an' rent a car to take us to Bergen. His private Vitex zeppelin will meet us there an' take us back to London."
"London? And Vitex?" asks the Doctor, tugging me by my hand and together, side by side, we walk towards mum who is now leading the way down the beach. She, after all, remembers the route Pete and Mickey mapped out all those years ago. I was hardly in any shape to recognise the landscape, in either direction.
"Yeah," I answer. "No one knows that dad is in charge of Torchwood—everyone just thinks he's the creator of Vitex energy drinks an' mum an' I are his ditzy girls. Gotta put up a front for the media."
The Doctor nods.
"You know," I begin hesitantly, "I never really left London." At the quizzical look the Doctor shot me, I hastened to add, "I mean, durin' those two years. I spent most of my time at Torchwood, helpin' them develop the technology to jump universes once we realised things were goin' a bit weird."
His proud smile melts me, just a little. "And good thing you did! Or else the Daleks and Davros would be ruling the universe. I'd never have got your Bad Wolf message."
I blush under the compliment, but feel as though my point hasn't been made yet. "Well… you see… I haven' seen much of this earth. An' it is different. There's a New Germany an' the UK's got a President instead of a Prime Minister an' Madagascar an' the Republic of New Haiti an' its Islands are huge world leaders here…"
"Rose?" the Doctor asks, stopping us and placing both his hands on my shoulders, peering down at me. Neither of us tells mum that we've stopped and she's continued walking right over a dune and is now out of sight. "What is it?"
I take a deep breath, looking directly ahead at his chest covered by a brown t-shirt and blue suit jacket. I am unable to look up into his eyes, in case he's more like the Time Lord Doctor that left us and less like the half-human Doctor he now is. "I thought that maybe, even though we can't go travellin' through time an' space anymore… that maybe we could travel earth? Torchwood an' alien technology will always be there an' dad'll get jobs for us easily… there's the Tyler fortune, too, that we don't use. You don't have to stay in one spot. We could explore this planet. Together. Like the old times."
I raise my eyes from his chest and glance quickly at his eyes. Those eyes have seen worlds end and worlds begin and I offer him a single planet.
But we're together. And we can make new memories together. Get reacquainted; maybe even find out a few things together. Save a few people, get into trouble, and run for our lives.
"Rose Tyler," he begins, slipping a finger underneath my chin and raising my head until I'm looking straight at him; his finger disappears from my chin. There is something in his eyes that makes my heart quicken and my breaths become tiny little pants.
He stretched his hand out and wiggles his fingers.
I stare at the offered hand for a moment, before raising my eyes to his. A smile breaks out across his face.
So have a good life,
Do it for me
Make me so proud
Like you want me to be.
Where ever you are,
I'm thinking of you oceans apart
I want you to know
Well I woke up today and you're on the other side
Our time will never come again
But if you can still dream
Close your eyes it will seem
That you can see me now and then
-- Murray Gold, "Song for Ten"