Disclaimer: Russell T. Davies broke them. I'm just trying to fix them.
Disclaimer: Russell T. Davies broke them. I'm just trying to fix them.
The Real One
Ever since she first moved into her own flat (not too far from this universe's Powell Estates, because she couldn't help herself), she'd secretly daydreamed about what it might be like to welcome the Doctor into her home. Now that she actually has to do it, it's more awkward than she thought it would be.
In her head, when they reunited, he'd be all enthusiastic chatter and allons-y! and striped brown suit, but this him, this new-but-not-new him, is meek. He keeps looking at her like he's not sure that she wants him there, and he doesn't talk much. Later she will learn that it's because he knows his voice still has a lot of Donna in it, and he's making a conscious effort to sound more like himself again. But right now, it just makes her uneasy.
So as she bustles around, tidying up and getting out extra blankets and pillows and putting the kettle on, she says things like "I can't believe I have you back." You, the same you I had before. She starts sentences with "Remember that time we...?" You're the same man I adventured with in the other world. She even grins her best grin and says, "Do you know how many times I wished you'd kissed me?"
That finally gets a smile out of him, a proper Doctory smile, all teeth and wiggling eyebrows.
"I wished it too," he says, and then sobers a bit. "But I couldn't, before. He couldn't, even then. Funny what it does, this human heart. You can do more with one human heart than with two Time Lord hearts."
"He?" she says. It's the first time either of them have acknowledged the other one. The one Rose secretly thinks of as the Real One.
"He," he says. "I? Pronouns get a bit confusing, times like these. I mean, I've met myself before, though it all goes a bit blurry afterwards. Never in the same body though."
She goes quiet. This isn't what she wants him to talk about, but she doesn't know how to tell him that. She wants him to tell him just how different he is from the Real One, so she doesn't have to be surprised later. He said it's the one heart, and the growing old without regenerating, but what else is there?
"I'm not the one you wanted," he says, looking sadly into her eyes.
For a moment she freezes, wondering desperately if this one has that slight telepathic ability that the Real One had. But she decides to go for broke and keep on acting. "Don't be silly," she says, smiling tenderly as she folds him into a hug. "You're him, he's you. And I love you. I love you so much."
After all, she spent years in this universe pretending she was fine. She can keep on pretending a little longer. Maybe forever, if she needs to.
They don't sleep together right away, but after only one night, the Doctor decides the couch isn't for him. He sneaks into her room in the middle of the night, and whispers her name till she wakes up enough to roll over and say "Huh?"
"Just me, hope you don't mind," he says, and when she pats the mattress, he gingerly climbs into bed with her.
With one foot still in a dream, Rose adjusts her body to let him curl around her, like she did so often in the other universe, when he needed comfort, or when she felt lonely. Just like we always were, and always will be, thinks her sleep-addled mind.
As she drifts off again in the comfort of his arms, she can hear the hum of the TARDIS's engines in her ears. The sound makes her smile.
"What do you think happened?" she blurts out over tea. "Do you think Donna stayed with him?"
He swallows, and averts his eyes. He knows that Donna's mind, left alone, would eventually kill her, and he knows what it would take to let her live. "Donna was such fun," he tells her, smiling fondly at the memory as he deftly sidesteps the question. "I never had a sister, but if I did, I imagine she'd be like Donna."
Rose smiles sadly. That was one more thing this Doctor couldn't have. Even if he found a Donna in this universe, she wouldn't be the same.
"Still," he continues, giving her a wink, "I reckon I got the better end of the deal."
Rose's heart flutters. "That so?"
"Got you back, didn't I?" he says.
No, she wants to say, you got me instead of everything else you ever had. That's not a better deal. That's paying a price. That's settling. Even in her own head, she won't let herself add, Just like I'm settling for you.
"Yeah, you did," she says.
He grins at her, and as they keep drinking their tea, she notices how still he sits. Maybe, she thinks, his human heart is slowing him down, making him savor moments now that he knows his moments are limited.
Making him look at her like she's the greatest treasure in the universe, because all the other treasures he had are gone.
Her heart breaks a little, but whether it's for him or for herself, she doesn't know.
"He just left me," she tells her mother over the phone. "He just left me with this broken version of himself and said, 'You fixed me before, now do it again.' It's not fair."
"Like a consolation prize," says Jackie.
Some secret part of her has been thinking exactly that all along, but she hates to hear it said out loud. "No, it's not that, mum, it's just... he's the same, but he's different. He has the same memories, but it's like he knows the future's going to be slower and less dangerous and he won't get to see all those planets and travel in time, but he hasn't said anything about it. It's been four days. The proper Doctor would be tearing down the walls by now. This one's just... lost."
"Consolation prize," Jackie repeats.
Rose sighs into the phone, and whispers, "Yes."
"I know, sweetheart," says Jackie. "Don't you think I know? Don't you remember how long it took with your father? He wasn't the same either. But we made it work."
Rose smiles to herself, remembering the Jackie who died in this universe, and how she and this Pete hadn't been in love for a long time. Remembering the Pete who died in the old universe, and how he and Jackie were always yelling at one another.
"You didn't just make it work," says Rose. "You made it better."
"We did." Rose can hear the fondness in her mother's voice. "And if I know anything, sweetheart, I know how much more alive you look when you're with that bloody man. He's a right dangerous bastard, and you won't change my mind about that, but he doesn't belong to anyone but you. And I know I'll regret saying this somewhere down the line, but that goes the other way round too."
Rose is crying when she hangs up the phone. When the Doctor comes in and asks what's wrong, she says it's nothing.
But he knows it's not, and he holds her till she doesn't have any more tears left.
After a week, she goes back to work, and he panics.
"But it's supposed to be just you and me, isn't it?"
"It is," she says. "But I have to pay for this flat somehow. We can't go on pretending this is the TARDIS and we're on holiday in the Vortex. I have a life here, and a job, and my family. You can stay here all day, or you can come and be part of it."
He looks at the walls of her flat, as if realizing for the first time just how close together they are. She sees the knowledge come crashing down all over his face: if he wants to stay with her, he'll have to stay. Home. Rent. Carpets. Windows.
He looks like a caged animal.
"You could help at Torchwood," she offers. "We could use you."
He balks visibly. "I'm a Time Lord," he says sourly, as if this answers everything.
"Well, pardon me," snaps Rose. "Since I'm just a lowly human, I'll be off to my stupid little job, and you can stay here and do important Time Lord things. Don't blow anything up while I'm gone."
She almost slams the door, but she doesn't want to make the neighbors suspicious.
He's waiting for her when she comes home. His blue suit is freshly pressed, her little kitchen table table is set with plates and flowers and candles, and the lights are dimmed.
"Romantic dinner for two," he says with a shy smile. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. About before, I mean."
She sighs, and falls into the hug he offers her. "I know," she says. "It's hard. You're used to something so different."
"But so were you, when you first came here," he says. "You wanted the life I had, and it got taken away from you just like it's been taken away from me. No TARDIS for either of us. Just... this." He makes a sweeping gesture with his hand, indicating the flat, the kitchen, and especially the table that he's set for them. "Just being human."
She smiles, willing herself not to cry for him, and for them. "What are we having for dinner?"
He winces a little bit. "Well, see," he falters, "I never cooked, exactly. The TARDIS always just... well, anyway, I tried to do that complicated thing with the chicken and onions and gravy that you have in that cookbook over there, but it went a little, erm, awry. So I tried spaghetti and meatballs, but I may have left the pot on for just a tad too long—"
"Hence the burning smell," says Rose.
"—and I didn't want to serve you singed spaghetti, so..."
Just as he pauses to ruffle his hair with one hand, the doorbell rings.
"That'll be the pizza," says the Doctor.
As he goes to answer the door, Rose blinks in astonishment, then something bubbles up inside her and she laughs till her sides ache.
"We can still travel, you know," he says one day. "Not in time, but around the Earth. Plenty of places I haven't seen."
She gives him a long look. Neither of them talks much about their old life anymore, and she's always a bit wary when he brings it up. "It won't be the same," she says carefully.
"Course it won't!" he says. "Brand new adventures. We'll fly on aeroplanes and sail on ships and things like that. I'm starting to figure out this money business, and what we get from Torchwood isn't half bad. Enough to buy plane tickets now and again. You and me, seeing the world. What do you say?"
"Will there be running?" she says.
He raises his eyebrows and grins, and for a second he's one hundred percent, pure Time Lord. "Always," he promises.
When it's her turn to surprise him with a romantic candlelit dinner for two (this time it's Chinese, since she doesn't really cook either), she brings wine into the mix. She, having been human far longer than he, has had time to build up a tolerance, and she stays sober far longer than he does.
After dinner, glasses still in hand, they sit on the couch and she listens to his stories about what happened while she was away. The Family of Blood. River Song. Jenny. Pompeii. The living sun and the mimicking entity on the diamond planet. Astrid. Martha.
"...and it all comes down to love, Rose. Just love. All you need is love. Does this universe have the Beatles, too? Because they were brilliant. All you need is love! And when you, when you don't have it, I mean when I didn't have it, look at what happened. So much death, over and over and over again. And Martha was so nice and so brilliant, and I should have been a good friend to her, but I couldn't because she wasn't you. And when I met River, all I could think was how can future-me love this person, when she isn't Rose?"
"The other you can still love her," says Rose gently. "He had to let me go so you could have me."
When he looks up at her, the alcohol has stripped his face naked, and he looks at her with desperate eyes. "He was stronger than me. I couldn't have done it. I couldn't have let you go again."
And it's the again that makes the tears well up in Rose's eyes. She remembers that it was this man, right in front of her, who burned up a sun just to have those two minutes with her, the first time they said goodbye. It wasn't just the other one. It was this one too. He's the Real One, just as much as the one who let her go.
"You don't have to," she says in a choked voice. Her body leans in like a magnet to hug him, and after a moment she kisses him too, for the first time since Bad Wolf Bay.
She puts a hand on his chest, feeling the strangely lonely beat of his heart. "Is it weird, just having one?" she says.
"Mmhmm," he replies, licking his lips.
"Maybe that's why humans fall in love more easily than Time Lords," she muses. "Or at least they admit it more easily. Maybe they know there are meant to be two hearts."
He just kisses her again.
Her fingers clumsily unbutton his shirt, the jacket and tie having been discarded after the third glass of wine. Without anyone watching them this time around, the kissing of lips turns into the kissing of ears and necks and eyelids, and eventually of chests and arms and fingertips and other things.
Rose never got a chance to learn the body of her other Doctor, but aside from the heartbeat, she imagines that everything else is the same.
"I love you," she whispers in his ear, after.
It's the first time she's said that to him, to this him, and his eyes shine.
"I'm glad," he says. "I'm so glad."